Stocks and oil rallied on Thursday, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq leading the way for stocks as oil prices bounced back after two straight losing days. With Thursday's close, the Nasdaq made its highest close since March 2000.
First, the scoreboard:
Dow: 17,972.4, +110.2, (+0.6%)
S&P 500: 2,088.5, +20, (+0.9%)
Nasdaq: 4,857.6, +56.4, (+1.2%)
And now, the top stories on Thursday:
1. The US consumer was in focus on Thursday, as the January report on retail sales showed that sales declined more than expected in the first month of the year. Retail sales declined 0.8%, more than the 0.4% decline that was expected, with sales rising 0.2% when excluding auto and gas sales. The bright spot in the retail sales report was from the restaurant and bar space, where sales rose 11.3% over the prior year.
2. Also on the economic data front, the weekly report on initial jobless claims disappointed, as claims came in at 304,000 last week, up from 278,000 the prior week and higher than the 287,000 that was expected by economists. Following this report, Ian Shepherdson at Pantheon Macro said, "In one line: Seasonal adjustment noise continues; trend likely still sub-300K and going nowhere."
3. After falling each of the last two days, oil prices bounced back on Thursday, with West Texas Intermediate crude oil rising more than 4.5% to trade back above $51 a barrel after falling as low as $48 in just the last couple days.
3. Tesla shares fell a bit less than 5% on Thursday after the company reported earnings and vehicle deliveries on Wednesday that disappointed. Tesla unexpectedly reported a loss in the fourth quarter and delivered around 9,800 cars, below the company's expectations for deliveries of 11,200. On its earnings conference call, Tesla made clear that is had big plans for capital spending, with CTO JB Straubel saying the company is planning to spend "staggering" amounts on capital expenditures in 2015.
4. American Express shares lost 6% on Thursday after the company announced that its co-branding deal with Costco would not be renewed next year. In a statement announcing the deal, American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault said the company was "unable to reach terms that would have made economic sense for our Company and shareholders."
5. On Wednesday, Rite Aid announced a $2 billion deal to acquire EnvisionRX, a pharmacy benefit manager. On Thursday, Business Insider's Jonathan Marino outlined why this deal is about keep pace with CVS' decision not just to stop selling cigarettes, but to get more aggressive with its pharmacy unit.
6. In M&A news, online travel service companies are merging as Expedia announced on Thursday that it would buy Orbitz for $12 per share.
7. Late Wednesday, Greece and its EU creditors said that they are still working towards a deal, but that no agreement on the terms of Greece's bailout had not yet been reached. On Wednesday, Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said of the meetings in Brussels that, "We are here to find a solution. A non-solution is not on our minds." A report from Bloomberg on Thursday afternoon said that German and Greek officials have signaled a "willingness to compromise." Talks between the sides are set to formally resume in Brussels on Monday.