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Financial Markets   05.20.15

The Gilmer Free Press

U.S. stocks ended marginally lower on Wednesday after Wall Street saw little in the minutes from last month’s Federal Reserve meeting to alter expectations of when the central bank will raise interest rates.

Following the minutes’ release, the Dow and S&P 500 pushed into record territory before giving up their gains.

Officials at the Fed’s April policy meeting believed it would be premature to raise interest rates in June and that a bump in inflation was being offset by a weaker labor market and softer data, according to the minutes.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI fell 26.99 points, or 0.15%, to end at 18,285.4. The S&P 500 .SPX lost 1.98 points, or 0.09%, to 2,125.85 and the NASDAQ Composite .IXIC added 1.71 points, or 0.03%, to end at 5,071.74.

The Dow had closed at record highs in the previous two sessions and on Wednesday was briefly on track for another all-time high close.

The S&P, also near record highs, is now trading at 17 times expected earnings, compared to its 10-year median of 15.

Five of the 10 major S&P 500 indexes were lower on Wednesday, led down by a 0.37% decline in the industrials index .SPLRCI.

Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) pushed airline shares lower with a drop of 9.09% after it forecast a decline in passenger unit revenue for the quarter. The Dow transports index .DJT lost 1.96%.

Among four banks fined a total of $6 billion for manipulating currency rates, Citigroup (C.N) lost 0.79% and JP Morgan (JPM.N) fell 0.79%.

While the Fed is broadly expected to raise rates this year, the timing of the move has kept the market on tenterhooks.

A Reuters poll on Tuesday showed most economists were now less sure about when rates would be increased, but the median still suggested a move in the third quarter.

Growth slowed to a crawl in the first quarter, while recent economic data has painted a mixed picture. Consumption, business spending and manufacturing data have suggested the economy is struggling, but housing starts were strong.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,571 to 1,426, for a 1.10-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the NASDAQ, 1,386 issues fell and 1,369 advanced for a 1.01-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 32 new 52-week highs and 4 new lows; the NASDAQ Composite recorded 102 new highs and 54 new lows.

About 5.8 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 6.3 billion average this month, according to BATS Global Markets.

PACF ISSUES GRANTS FOR THE AREA

The Gilmer Free Press


PARKERSBURG, WV—The Parkersburg Area Community Foundation & Regional Affiliates (PACF) announced its grant awards for spring 2015.

The Foundation awarded a total of $224,823 through the Spring Community Action Grants program to organizations within the Foundation’s eleven-county service region of Wood, Wirt, Ritchie, Doddridge, Mason, Calhoun, Gilmer, Roane, Pleasants, and Jackson Counties in West Virginia, and Washington County, Ohio.


AREA GRANTS:

    •  Calhoun County Historical and Genealogical Society - $2,592 to renovate the museum basement to mitigate water infiltration.

    •  Ellenboro Elementary School - $500 to purchase art supplies to incorporate art instruction into all classrooms.

    •  Gilmer Public Library - $3,250 to the development of mini-libraries throughout the county.

    •  North Bend Rails to Trails Foundation - $3,960 to install culverts on the North Bend Rail Trail.

    •  Ritchie County Middle School - $600 to support teacher training on literacy.

    •  Roane County Schools - $4,800 to upgrade Wifi infrastructure.

    •  The Wirt County Missional Group - $2,200 to purchase a cargo trailer for food transportation.

    •  West Central Beekeepers Association - $3,000 to assist local beekeepers in rebuilding bee colonies.

    •  Ritchie County Middle Schools - $800 to support teacher training on literacy

The Parkersburg Area Community Foundation and Regional Affiliates (PACF) awarded works with individuals, families, businesses, and civic or non-profit organizations to make a positive and permanent commitment for the future of our community.

PACF is a single 501(c)(3) public charity that manages more than 430 charitable funds with nearly $44 million in assets.

PACF works in partnership with local affiliates to provide leadership and develop philanthropic resources to meet the needs of an 11-county service area. Since 1963, PACF has helped local citizens support charitable needs and touch every aspect of life in the community in a variety of lasting ways.

For more information about PACF, visit www.pacfwv.com or call 304.428.4438.

U.S. Homebuilders’ Confidence in Sales Prospects

The Gilmer Free Press

U.S. homebuilders are feeling slightly less confident about their sales prospects, a reflection of the sluggish start to this spring’s home-selling season.

Even so, builders’ overall sales outlook remains favorable.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Monday slipped to 54 this month, down two points from 56 in April.

Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good, rather than poor. The latest reading is up nine points from a year ago.

Measures of current sales conditions and traffic by prospective buyers also fell. Builders’ outlook for sales of single-family homes over the next six months edged higher.

“Consumers are exhibiting caution, and want to be on more stable financial footing before purchasing a home,“ said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe.

Sales of new U.S. homes plummeted 11.4% in March, as the spring buying season opened with sharp declines in the Northeast and South, according to the Commerce Department. New-home sales slid to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 481,000, a swift reversal from an annual sales pace of 543,000 in February, which had been the strongest performance in seven years.

Even so, sales for the January-March period increased versus the same quarter last year.

Winter storms in January and February closed construction sites and likely pushed back potential sales this spring, traditionally the peak period for home sales, to later in the year.

Job gains over the past year have put homebuyers in a stronger financial position, which also points to stronger sales this year. And the average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage remains low by historic standards. Last week it stood at 3.85%. A year earlier, the rate was 4.20%.

Builders remain optimistic that sales will pick up. The NAHB’s index of future sales expectations has been tracking upward all year.

The latest NAHB index was based on responses from 298 builders. Its measure of current sales conditions for single-family homes declined two points to 59, while a gauge of traffic by prospective buyers dipped one point to 39. Builders’ outlook for sales over the next six months rose one point to 64.

Though new homes represent only a fraction of the housing market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in tax revenue, according to NAHB data.

The builder survey data sent shares in most U.S. homebuilders slightly lower, with UCP Inc. declining the most. The broader market was flat in morning trading Monday.

Financial Markets on 05.19.15

The Gilmer Free Press

U.S. stocks ended mixed on Tuesday, with the Dow rising marginally to a second straight record high, as Wall Street digested housing data that some saw as hopeful for an economy struggling to grow.

U.S. housing starts jumped to their highest level in nearly 7-1/2 years in April and permits soared.

Some investors interpreted that as a promising sign that a slow economy may be gaining steam, while others focused on uncertainty about when the Federal Reserve will start raising interest rates to head off inflation.

There really is a lot of fear about the threat of higher interest rates.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI rose 13.51 points, or 0.07%, to end at 18,312.39 points.

The S&P hit an intraday record of 2,133.02 before ending down 1.37 points, or 0.06%, at 2,127.83. The NASDAQ Composite .IXIC dropped 8.41 points, or 0.17%, to 5,070.03.

The S&P had closed at record highs on Friday and Monday after a stream of weak economic data suggested that Fed would wait to see more strength in the economy before raising rates.

The S&P is trading at 17.1 times forward earnings, compared with its 10-year median of 14.7.

Companies are buying back stock, raising dividends. They’re acting in the best interest of shareholders more and more.

Seven of the 10 major S&P 500 sectors were down, with the energy index .SPNY off 1.23%. Oil prices fell as the dollar strengthened and on evidence of ample supplies of Middle Eastern oil despite wars in northern Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Wal-Mart’s (WMT.N) shares ended down 4.37% at $76.43 and were the biggest drag on the Dow and the S&P 500 after the company reported lower-than-expected U.S. same-store sales growth.

Take-Two Interactive (TTWO.O) jumped 18.26% after its profit handily beat market estimates, helped by strong digital sales of “Grand Theft Auto V” and “NBA 2K15” games.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,829 to 1,225, for a 1.49-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the NASDAQ, 1,575 issues fell and 1,194 advanced for a 1.32-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 44 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows; the NASDAQ Composite recorded 113 new highs and 51 new lows.

About 5.9 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 6.3 billion average this month, according to BATS Global Markets.

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