Thursday Mid-Day Cheat Sheet: 3 Stories Driving Markets

The markets were mixed on Thursday afternoon. Late in the morning, the S&P 500 broke 1,500 for the first time since 2007, led by strong gains in the Dow. However, the NASDAQ was weighed down by heavy losses in Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) after its underwhelming first-quarter earnings report last night.

At 1:18 p.m.: DJIA: +0.30%, S&P 500: +0.03%, NASDAQ: -0.65%.

Here are three stories helping shape the markets today:earnings

1) The Conference Board Leading Economic Index for the United States, which includes 10 component indicators, such as unemployment claims, manufacturing orders, the S&P 500 index, interest rate spreads, and consumer sentiment, increased 0.5 percent in December to 93.9, a sharp gain relative to historic changes.

“The latest data suggest that a pickup in domestic growth is now more likely, compared to a few months ago,” said Ken Goldstein, an economist at the Conference Board, in a statement. As a composite index of already broad indicators, the LEI can be used to form general expectations for future economic conditions. Changes in the LEI tend to precede movement in the economy.

Around the globe, the index dropped 0.2 percent for Japan, was flat in Germany, and climbed 0.4 percent in China.

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jobs2) Unemployment in Spain for those aged between 16 and 24 has hit 55.1 percent, according to newly released figures. Spain’s overall unemployment rate rose to a record 26.2 percent, edging out Greece at 26 percent for the worst labor market in Europe.

This compares to about 10.7 percent unemployment on average across the 27 member states of the EU. Germany, the region’s largest economy, returned a pretty steady unemployment rate of 5.3 percent.

3) But it’s not all bad news for Europe. Euro-zone flash PMI hit a ten-month high of 48.2 in January, compared to 47.2 in December. This level indicates that economic activity is still shrinking, but is above lows of 45.7 in October.

As with employment, Europe’s PMI tends to vary considerably with region. The most-recent reading is pulled in either direction by substantial growth in manufacturing and services in Germany, but steep declines in France.

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