BlackBerry Slides, Rite Aid Soars, and Unemployment Claims Fall: Market Recap

U.S. equity markets posted modest gains on Thursday, pushing the S&P 500 into the fourth day of a rally. Although the economy remains weak and supported by historic central bank intervention, initial claims for unemployment insurance fell 10 percent in the week ended April 6 to a seasonally-adjusted 346,000. This compares against expectations for a 6 percent decline to 365,000 claims, and punctuates a March littered with negative labor market news… (Read more.)

DJIA: +0.42% to 14,865.10 S&P 500: +0.36% to 1,593.37 NASDAQ: +0.09% to 3,300.16
Gold: +$6.10 to $1,564.90 per ounce WTI Crude: -1.28% to $93.43 per barrel U.S. 10-Year: -0.014 points to 1.790%
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Import prices declined 0.5 percent in March, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Thursday morning. This is the first monthly decline since December, and contributed to a 2.7 percent year-over-year decrease in import prices for the month… (Read more.)

IDC and Gartner have released their quarterly trackers of PC shipments worldwide and in the U.S., and while both are mostly negative, there are some discrepancies between the two firms. According to IDC, global PC shipments declined 13.9 percent year-on-year to 76.3 million units in the first quarter of 2013, nearly doubling the firms predicted decline. The deep slide is the worst recorded since the firm began tracking shipments in 1994… (Read more.)

Strong retail sales figures helped drive stocks higher…

Here’s your Cheat Sheet to today’s top stock stories:

L Brands (NYSE:LTD) closed the day up 4.3 percent after reporting that comparable-store sales increased 3 percent year over year for the five weeks ended April 6. The company reported net sales of $894.8 million for the same five-week period, an increase of 6 percent.

BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) closed the day down 7.7 percent. It seems like the company just can’t catch a break, it seems, as several major U.S. retailers are reporting a significant increase in returns for the new Z10, one in the new lineup of smartphones on which the company is pinning its future viability… (Read more.)

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Sinclair Broadcast Group (NASDAQ:SBGI) closed the day up 8.5 percent after the company announced that it has entered into a definitive merger agreement with Fisher Communications (NASDAQ:FSCI) worth $373.3 million. Under the terms of the agreement, Fisher shareholders will receive $41.00 in cash for each share of Fisher common stock they own. The transaction represents a 44% premium to the closing price of Fisher common stock on January 9, 2013, the final trading day prior to Fisher announcing a review of strategic alternatives. Fisher stock increased 5.5 percent to $41.09 per share.

Fortinet (NASDAQ:FTNT) closed down 13 percent after cutting its first-quarter guidance from $0.11 to $0.12 per share to $0.10 per share. The company now expects total revenue in a range between $134 million and $136 million, down from the company’s earlier guidance of $138 million to $141 million.

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) closed the day down 4.4 percent, erasing gains made during Wednesday’s regular session. Goldman Sachs slapped the tech company with a downgrade from Neutral to Sell and lowered its price target from $30 to $27, 10.8 percent below Wednesday’s closing price of $30.28. The IDC report can’t be helping either. Ostensibly trapped on the same lifeboat is Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), which was off about 2 percent for the day after gains earlier in the week.

Pier 1 Imports (NYSE:PIR) closed the day down 0.77 percent after the specialty retailer reported fiscal fourth-quarter and full-year financial results. Comparable-store sales increased 7.5 percent for the year, while earnings per share increased 27.7 percent on a non-GAAP basis, but fell 18.9 percent on a GAAP basis.

Boyd Gaming (NYSE:BYD) closed the day up 7.9 percent after Morgan Stanley upgraded the stock from Equal Weight to Overweight. The firm believes that online real-money gambling will lead to profits.

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J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) closed the day up 5.5 percent. The board of the struggling 111-year-old department-store chain has received scathing criticism from both retail investors and corporate governance experts after ousting its embattled Chief Executive Officer Ron Johnson and replacing him with his predecessor, Myron Ullman. However, a trial over whether or not the retailer is allowed to sell Martha Stewart-branded merchandise could be coming to an end.

Rite Aid (NYSE:RAD) closed the day up 18 percent after the retail drugstore chain released fourth-quarter and full-year financial results. The company reported fourth-quarter net income of $0.13 per diluted share, which compares against a loss of $0.18 in the year-ago period. Full-year net income of $0.12 per share compares against a $0.43 per-share loss last year. Net income guidance for 2014 is in a range between $0.04 and $0.20 per diluted share.

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