The US markets closed higher on Thursday, on the back of a rebound in energy shares as the bull market quietly marked its unofficial eighth birthday. Thursday marks the eighth anniversary of the bull market, based on the fact that the S&P 500 notched its bear-market closing low on March 9, 2009. According to the recent polls, the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates next week in response to a series of strong economic data, with two more hikes likely to follow later this year. Hawkish comments from several Fed officials have pushed interest rate futures markets to bet on a rate hike on March 15, with the probability now at 90 percent, up from just 30 percent early last week.
On the economy front, the number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits jumped by 20,000 to 243,000 in early March, but layoffs remained near a 45-year low. Just a week earlier, new claims had fallen to the lowest level since March 1973. And they’ve come under the key 300,000 threshold for 105 straight weeks, the second longest streak since the mid-1960s. The four-week average of initial claims, meanwhile, rose by 2,250 to 236,500. Continuing jobless claims dropped by 6,000 to 2.06 million in the week ended February 25. The price of imports rose in February for the third month in a row, and in a potentially worrisome sign, the increase spread beyond oil into other industrial and consumer goods. The import price index rose 0.2% in February following even bigger increases in the prior two months. Rising import inflation could be another spur for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates soon, perhaps as early as next week. Unlike in January and December, the increase in import-related inflation last month wasn’t tied mainly to higher oil prices. Indeed, the cost of petroleum imports actually fell 0.7% in February.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 2.46 points or 0.01 percent to 20,858.19, Nasdaq was up 1.26 points or 0.02 percent to 5,838.81, while S&P 500 gained 1.89 points or 0.08 percent to 2,364.87.
The Indian ADRs closed in red; Dr. Reddy’s Lab was down 1.61%, HDFC Bank was down 0.79%, Infosys was down 0.31%, ICICI Bank was down 0.08% and Tata Motors was down 0.05%.