Stocks staged a big rally on Thursday, but came off their best levels late in the session after New York City officials confirmed late in the day that a healthcare worker who recently traveled to West Africa was being evaluated for Ebola-like symptoms. Earlier in the day on Thursday, stocks were on pace for their best day of the year, but still finished with gains bigger than 1% across the board.
First, the scoreboard:
Dow: 16,677.9, +216.6, (+1.3%)
S&P 500: 1,950.8, +23.7, (+1.2%)
Nasdaq: 4,452.8, +69.9, (+1.6%)
And now, the top stories on Thursday:
1. Mega cap stocks were in focus on Thursday after Caterpillar and 3M rallied following their earnings reports. Caterpillar reported adjusted earnings per share of $1.72, better than the $1.35 expected by analysts, with revenue that rose to $13.55 billion against expectations for $13.2 billion. In its earnings statement, the company, which is often seen an economic bellwether, said: "From an economic perspective, we believe there is a reasonable likelihood that world economic growth could improve in 2015. In developed countries, growth-oriented monetary policies should support continued modest economic improvement." Caterpillar shares finished the day up 5%.
2. 3M shares also gained 5% after the conglomerate reported earnings per share that beat expectations by $0.02, though its quarterly revenue came in a little light. Shares of the Dow member rallied however, as the company narrowed both its full-year earnings and revenue outlooks. In the third quarter, 3M also said that it converted 103% of its net income to free cash flow.
3. Late afternoon reports indicated that a healthcare worker in New York City who had been traveling in West Africa, was being evaluated at New York City's Bellevue Hospital after experiencing Ebola-like symptoms. These reports, which broke just before 3:00 pm ET, took the stock market off its best levels of the day. Shares of Lakeland Industries, which makes hazmat suits and has been rallying over the last couple weeks as fears regarding Ebola have spread, spiked higher following the news. New York City health officials later confirmed that a patient was being tested for Ebola, with the results expected within 12 hours.
4. The weekly report on initial jobless claims showed that claims rose 17,000 from last week to 283,000, slightly above the 281,000 that was expected by economists. This reading, however, brought the four-week moving average down to 281,000, the lowest level since May 6, 2000. Following the report, Chris Rupkey at MUFG said, "The labor market is still strong and any slack remaining is just a figment of the Federal Reserve's imagination."
5. Also on the economic data front, Markit's US flash manufacturing PMI for October came in at 56.2, down from last month's 57.5 and below expectations for a reading of 57.0. This was the lowest reading for the report since July, and the report's new business subindex showed that new orders rose by the least in nine months.
6. Sears is planning to close stores. Business Insider's Ashley Lutz, citing a company spokesperson, reported that the company will close stores, but said that a Seeking Alpha report, which said Sears would close more than 100 stores and lay off 5,5000 wasn't accurate. "As we have previously communicated, adjusting our physical footprint to focus on our best performing locations is a core component of our transformation," the company said.
7. Shares of GT Advanced, the Apple sapphire supplier that earlier this month unexpectedly declared bankruptcy, said in a statement on Thursday that the company would exit the production of sapphire materials and shut down its factories in Arizona and Massachusetts. Following the announcement, shares of the company currently trading over the counter rose more than 40%.
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