Stocks rise as banks rise; oil, Fed speakers in focus

U.S. equities traded slightly higher on Thursday as investors digested some economic data and kept an eye on oil prices.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose about 60 points, with Goldman Sachs and UnitedHealth contributing the most gains.

The S&P 500 gained 0.16 percent, with financials outperforming. Lifting the sector were bank stocks, as the SPDR S&P Bank ETF (KBE) and the Regional Banking ETF (KRE) popped around 2 percent.

The Nasdaq composite rose 0.15 percent.

“We’re in the last two days of the quarter and most of the end-of-quarter window dressing has probably taken place already,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial. “I think the market is going to stay range-bound until the new quarter starts.”

Friday marks the last day of the first quarter. Entering Thursday’s session, the Nasdaq composite had gained 9.56 percent, while the S&P and Dow had risen 5.46 percent and 4.54 percent, respectively.

In economic news, the U.S. economy grew at a rate of 2.1 percent in the final quarter of last year, more than was expected. Other data released Thursday included weekly jobless claims, which fell by 3,000 to 258,000.

“Bottom line, this is old news as we are two days away from finishing Q1 but at least we see from what base we are moving from,” Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, said in a note referring to the economic growth data.

That said, U.S. Treasurys gave up slight gains following the data’s release, with the benchmark 10-year note yield falling to 2.4 percent. Yields have pulled back from their 2017 highs since the Federal Reserve raised interest rates earlier this month, but maintained their outlook mostly unchanged.

San Francisco Fed President John Williams is slated to speak at 11:00 a.m. ET, while Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan will speak at 3:00 p.m. ET. New York Fed President William Dudley is due to speak at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Elsewhere, crude prices rose 0.67 percent to $49.84 per barrel, building on Wednesday’s gains after better-than-expected inventories data.

“Although the relatively bullish US crude inventories data and supply disruptions in Libya have provided oil markets a welcome boost, the gains may be limited as investors mull over the effectiveness of OPEC’s supply cuts,” said Lukman Otunuga, research analyst at FXTM.

Fred Imbert

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