HP Chairman Steps Down and Facebook Announces Home: Market Recap

The U.S. Department of Labor reported that initial claims for unemployment insurance increased by 28,000 in the last week of the month. Claims totaled a seasonally-adjusted 385,000, a 7.8 percent increase from last week’s unrevised figure of 357,000 and about 10 percent higher than expectations.

DJIA: +0.38% to 14,606.10 S&P 500: +0.40% to 1,559.97 NASDAQ: +0.20% to 3,224.98
Gold: -$1.10 to $1,552.40 WTI Crude:  -1.12% to $93.39 per barrel U.S. 10-Year: -0.048 points to 1.763 percent

The Markit Eurozone Composite PMI report for March, released on Thursday morning, showed that the decline in business activity accelerated for the second month in a row and is declining at its fastest rate since November. Output has fallen for 18 of the past 19 months.

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The ECB also announced on Thursday that it kept its benchmark rate unchanged. Some economists are expecting central bank President Mario Draghi to begin pursuing more unconventional policies in the near future. Meanwhile, Japan’s central bank announced that it would pursue an ambitious stimulus program. After his first policy meeting as head of the bank, Haruhiko Kuroda committed to open-ended asset purchases and suggests that the monetary base could double to 270 trillion yen ($2.9 trillion) by the end of 2014. This stimulus, $1.4 trillion over two years, is aimed at shocking the nation’s economy out of years of stagflation…

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

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) wobbled to close up 0.12 percent after receiving a downgrade from Buy to Neutral by an analyst at Merill Lynch, who also lowered his price target from $45 to $33. According to Barron’s, the analyst wrote that “The MSFT bull case was low valuation and capital return, which are not the issues. It has admirably solved for revenue, EPS, cash flow and billings, but confidence is lacking in unit growth of Win 8 consumer devices […] It is difficult to pivot the investment case on MSFT till the fog of consumer Win 8 lifts.”

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Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) climbed 3 percent on Thursday after it introduced a new service called Home. As described in the press release: “Home isn’t a phone or operating system, and it’s also more than just an app.” Blurring the line between app and OS, Home is a set of features designed to turn a smart device into a piece of social media wizardry designed to dominate a user’s mobile usage… (Read more.)

Teradata (NYSE:TDC) closed the day down 7.45 percent after Morgan Stanley cut its 2013 revenue estimate on the stock from $2.92 to $2.82 billion and earnings from $3.15 to $3.05 per share.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) closed the day of 1.78 percent. News broke at the end of the day that chairman Ray Lane will step down, along with John Hammergren and G. Kennedy Thompson. The news comes after he was recently re-elected despite several proxy firms seeking his removal.

Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) closed the day up more than 16 percent following news that Samsung (SSNLF.PK) will be opening its own mini-stores inside of the retailer, a strategy currently in use by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). Samsung will open as many as 500 locations starting on April 8 as part of its effort to take U.S. market share from Apple. Regardless of whether or not the new locations will increase sales — Samsung will offer first quarter guidance tomorrow — Wall Street seems to think that Best Buy will do nothing but profit from the presence of the two competitors in stores.

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Lululemon (NASDAQ:LULU) closed the day up 2.21 percent despite getting slapped with a downgrade from Outperform to Market Perform by RBC Capital. The firm also lowered its price target on the stock from $80 to $70. The company also announced that Chief Product Officer Sheree Waterson will be leaving the company by April 15. Waterson is apparently taking flak for a recall in March that is expected to cost the company as much as $40 million.

Panera Bread (NASDAQ:PNRA) closed the day up 3.71 percent and hit an all-time intraday high after Goldman Sachs upgraded the stock from Neutral to Buy.

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