U.S. markets tried to find some balance, as both oil prices and stocks meandered throughout the day, with stocks up but oil down by day’s end.
One notable bit of news that did not help — the Labor Department reported that productivity was off 3% in the fourth quarter, the largest decline since early 2014. Productivity, which was down over 2% in the third quarter, is the rate of hourly output per worker.
Also in economic news, while the street was looking for jobless claims to come in at 280,000 this week, the Labor Department reported the real number was 285,000. While that’s not bad, the number keeps inching closer to the 300,000 mark that represents a weaker job market. That sub-300,000 number has held for 48 consecutive weeks, something that has not occurred since the 1970s.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.5%, while the S&P 500 was 0.2 higher, and the Nasdaq 0.1%.
Various stocks that have been battered down in recent months are beginning to find a toe-hold in this market. A few that excelled today were Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), Freeport-McMoRan Inc (NYSE:FCX) and Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT), making them three of today’s best stocks. Here’s the full story:
Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO)
YHOO, which has been having a very rough week, got some badly needed help today from Citigroup Inc, which upgraded YHOO stock from “hold” to “buy.” In addition, Citi raised Yahoo’s price target from $31 to $32 a share.
Citi noted the positive developments recently from YHOO in being willing to look at new options and restructure things within the company.
Earlier this week, Yahoo fell after Tuesday’s earnings report was not received enthusiastically by the street. In addition, CEO Marissa Mayer said that there would be job cuts of 1,700 of Yahoo’s employees by the end of March, as well as the closing of some offices overseas. Also, there is now a lawsuit alleging that employees were fired due to a “rigged” performance review.
So the Citi upgrade today could not have come at a better time for the beleaguered Internet company.
Freeport-McMoRan Inc (FCX)
Despite TheStreet.com calling Freeport “The Worst Stock in the World” today, FCX stock rallied 18% on extremely heavy volume of 116 million shares, as copper and gold prices continue to rise off their recent bottoms.
Commodities are rallying as the U.S. dollar sells off, forcing many short sellers to cover their positions. Other stocks in the materials and commodity sectors, such as Goldcorp Inc (USA) (NYSE:GG), United States Steel Corporation (NYSE:X) and Newmont Mining Corp (NYSE:NEM), also did very well both today, and throughout this past week.
Caterpillar Inc. (CAT)
Shares of the big Cat were rising 4% today, despite any real news on the company and word yesterday that hedge fund Candriam Luxembourg S.C.A. has recently slashed its stake in CAT by 168,453 shares.
So why was CAT up today? The most likely reason was in sympathy with diesel and gas engine manufacturer Cummins Inc (NYSE:CMI). CMI reported adjusted fourth-quarter earnings of $2.09 a share that beat the street by a penny, and earned revenue of $4.77 billion, besting the estimates of $4.71 billion.
This has been a much better week for materials and commodity stocks in general, as investors are scooping up well-known, formerly strong companies at bargain prices.
As of this writing, Ethan Roberts did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.