Weekly Market Recap: Housing Sales Slump, Hunger Games Hype

Monday

Markets closed up on Wall Street today: Dow +0.05%, S&P +0.40%, Nasdaq +0.75%, Oil +0.84%, Gold +0.42%.

On the commodities front, Oil (NYSE:USO) rose to $107.96 a barrel. Precious metals were also up, with Gold (NYSE:GLD) rising slightly to $1,662.70 an ounce while Silver (NYSE:SLV) rose 0.94% to settle at $32.91.

Today’s markets were up because:

1) Banks. Following reports that the Federal Reserve made some minor corrections to its stress test results, bank shares gained in late trading, with Citigroup (NYSE:C) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) leading the rally, climbing 1.3 and 2.7 percent, respectively. Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) shares topped $10 for the first time since August today before turning lower.

2) Housing. The Treasury Department announced today that it made taxpayers $25 billion in profit by getting rid of a bunch of mortgage-backed securities it first purchased to stem the financial crisis in 2008-2009. Housing will remain in focus this week with reports due on new home sales, housing, starts, and existing-home sales.

3) Apple. After announcing it would begin paying quarterly dividends to shareholders for the first time since 1995, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) jumped in early trading, and continued to climb throughout the day, closing the day above the $600 mark and helping the tech-heavy Nasdaq climb 0.9 percent. Apple also said it would buy back $10 billion of its own shares over the next three years.

Tuesday

Markets closed down on Wall Street today: Dow -0.52%, S&P -0.30%, Nasdaq -0.14%, Oil -2.15%, Gold -1.12%.

On the commodities front, Oil (NYSE:USO) fell to $106.23 a barrel. Precious metals were also down, with Gold (NYSE:GLD) falling to $1,648.60 an ounce while Silver (NYSE:SLV) fell 2.69% to settle at $32.07.

Today’s markets were down because:

1) Housing. Housing starts slipped in February, but according to a Commerce Department report today, permits for future construction rose to their highest level since October 2008. Residential construction was up 34.7 percent in February compared to last year, but an oversupply of unsold homes continues to depress prices in the housing market and discourage builders.

2) China. Prices for industrial commodities fell today on worries that China, the world’s second-largest economy, is headed for a significant slowdown. Officials in China announced plans to allow gas prices to rise in an effort to compensate for higher oil prices. Home prices are also down in major cities across China, according to recently released government statistics. Investors grew increasingly concerned about the country’s property market following reports that the chief executive of mining giant BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP) said China’s steel production is slowing.

3) Companies. News from China tempered positive sentiment from the seeming housing recovery, and shares of economically sensitive U.S. companies dragged markets downward, with the industrial and materials sector leading the retreat. Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), Alcoa (NYSE:AA), and Chevron (NYSE:CVX) were among the day’s worst performers. However, shares of Bank of America and Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) managed to stay positive.

BONUS: How Does Apple’s Dividend Stack Up Against Other Tech Titans?

Wednesday

Markets closed mixed on Wall Street today: Dow -0.35%, S&P -0.18%, Nasdaq +0.04%, Oil +0.84%, Gold +0.19%.

On the commodities front, Oil (NYSE:USO) rose to $106.96 a barrel. Precious metals were also up, with Gold (NYSE:GLD) climbing to $1,650.10 an ounce while Silver (NYSE:SLV) rose 1.04% to settle at $32.17.

Today’s markets were mixed because:

1) Housing. The latest report on home sales dampened enthusiasm about the economy today. The National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday that fewer than expected previously-occupied homes were bought last month, prompting stocks to turn lower in early trading. The report came after government data released Tuesday showed a dip in new home construction.

2) Tech. Gains in technology shares buoyed the Nasdaq, though the energy services sector weighed down markets. Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) was trading higher after it announced it would buy OMGPOP, the maker of the hit game “Draw Something,” currently the most popular app in Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) App Store, both for iPhones and iPads. Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) was also trading higher on news that its Chrome browser surpassed Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Internet Explorer in terms of users for the first time. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) said it was merging its printer and PC businesses in a major reorganization to save costs and boost growth. And Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) shares rose after the world’s No. 3 software maker beat Wall Street’s earnings estimates.

3) Stocks. Lions Gate Entertainment (NYSE:LGF) continued to draw attention as investors bet the company would win big with the opening of “The Hunger Games” movie this Friday. General Mills (NYSE:GM) shares were down after the company noted that its margins had been squeezed during the last quarter by higher input prices. And Green Mountain (NASDAQ:GMCR) was trading higher, up more than 10 percent at close, following the announcement that Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) would produce coffee for its new Keurig single-cup coffee makers.

Thursday

Markets closed down on Wall Street today: Dow -0.60%, S&P -0.72%, Nasdaq -0.39%, Oil -1.69%, Gold -0.39%.

On the commodities front, Oil (NYSE:USO) fell to $105.46 a barrel. Precious metals were also down, with Gold (NYSE:GLD) falling to $1,643.80 an ounce while Silver (NYSE:SLV) fell 2.27% to settle at $31.50.

Today’s markets were down because:

1) Unemployment. The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits hit a 4-year low last week, according to data released today by the Labor Department, but it wasn’t enough to help investors shake off the doldrums. Today’s sell-off was broad, with the most economically sensitive equities and commodities leading declines, despite news that just 348,000 new claims were filed last week.
Check out: These Jobless Claims Keep Shocking Pessimists

2) Bellwethers. The economic bellwethers were the hardest hit today, despite no significant economic developments other than the morning’s positive jobs report. Copper and oil fell more than 2 percent, and all 10 Dow sectors were down, led by oil and gas producers, including Chevron (NYSE:CVX) and Exxon (NYSE:XOM). Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) and Alcoa (NYSE:AA) were also trading lower, dragging on the blue chip index.
Check Out: Caterpillar Ups the Ante in China

3) China. Some of today’s sell-off can be attributed to concerns over a seeming slowdown in China. A reading on Chinese manufacturing compiled by HSBC (NYSE:HBC) showed the index hit a four-month low in March, indicating contraction in the sector for the second straight month. A significant drop in new orders was the biggest drag on manufacturing. In recent weeks, China has lowered its growth target and raised gasoline prices.

Friday

Markets closed up on Wall Street today: Dow 0.27%, S&P 0.31%, Nasdaq 0.15%, Oil 1.31%, Gold 1.22%.

On the commodities front, Oil (NYSE:USO) jumped to $106.73 a barrel. Precious metals were also up, with Gold (NYSE:GLD) popping to $1,662.50 an ounce while Silver (NYSE:SLV) hopped 2.68% to settle at $32.18.

Hot Feature: Yahoo’s Incredible Political Prediction Engine

Here are the 3 biggest market moving stories of the day:

1) BATS Screws Up IPO … and Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Flash Crash. What’s the worst possible thing that could happen to an exchange operator at it’s initial public offering? A flash crash in Apple. What’s the second worst possible thing? A postponement of the IPO because of execution issues. I’m sure the NYSE (NYSE:NYX) and Nasdaq (NASDAQ:NDAQ) will be telling a ton of jokes this weekend.

2) Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) aims to take advantage of Citigroup (NYSE:C). Morgan Stanley is looking to up its stake in a wealth management fund by buying Citigroup’s portion. The transaction could reach a price as high as $10 billion.

3) Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) is shuffling the deck like crazy. Only a few breaths after Zynga bought OMGPOP, the company issued a S-1 indicating the company will sell 42.9 million of its common stock as it pleases. Moreover, CEO Mark Pincus will sell 15 percent of his shares.

To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Knapp at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at editors@wallstcheatsheet.com