Thursday’s Mid-Day Movers: 3 Stories Driving Markets

U.S. stocks edged lower on Thursday afternoon, cooling off after five consecutive records for the S&P 500. At 12:30 p.m.:

DJIA: -0.08% to 15,092.60 S&P 500: -0.20% to 1,629.49 NASDAQ: -0.04% to 3,412.06
Gold: -$7.20 to $1,466.50 per ounce Oil: -$0.97 to $95.65 per barrel U.S. 10-Year: -0.009 to 1.801%
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Here are three stories helping shape the markets on Thursday afternoon:

1) Are Layoffs Nearing Pre-Recession Levels? In the ongoing saga that is the labor market recovery, the United States took another step forward; after initial claims for unemployment benefits fell to 324,000 in the week ended April 27 — the lowest level reported in the past five years. Claims dropped to 323,000 last week — another five-year low. Since reaching an all-time high of 670,000 claims in March of 2009, these figures seem to indicated that layoffs are back to pre-recession levels and that employers are confident enough in current economic conditions to hold onto workers.

Even more encouraging, for the first time, the average over the past month was the lowest since before the recession began… (Read more.)

2) Are Oil and Apparel to Blame for the Wholesale Drop? Investors in the U.S. stock markets look to the Commerce Department’s report on wholesale trade to give them a look below the surface of the visible consumer economy, especially as activity at the wholesale level can be a precursor for consumer trends. In particular, by looking at the ratio of inventories to sales, investors can analyze whether production will grow in coming months.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that wholesale inventories rose 0.4 percent in March, which was exactly on-trend and not much of a surprise. What was surprising about the data was the 1.6 percent plunge in sales, and this mismatch drove the stock-to-sales ratio in the wholesale sector from 1.19 in February to a recovery high of 1.21… (Read more.)

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3) How Many Companies Are Cooking the Books? A combination of sluggish growth, complacency, and outright greed is leading to a “do whatever it takes” mentality in the business world. Even if that means cooking the books or conducting other acts of fraud.

Out of almost 3,500 employees in 36 countries around the globe, one in five admit to being aware of financial manipulation in their own company over the past year, according to the latest survey from Ernst & Young. Furthermore, 42 percent of board directors and top managers are aware of irregular financial reporting at their employer. The regions in the survey include: Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and India… (Read more.)

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