U.S. equities finished near the unchanged line again on Monday, as the bulls managed to push the major indices higher. This came after some mid-day selling pressure on headlines China had deployed troops to its border with North Korea — a potential escalation as the United States sends a carrier battle group into the area.
In the end, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained a fraction, the S&P 500 gained 0.1%, the Nasdaq Composite added 0.1% and the Russell 2000 gained 0.2%. Elsewhere: Treasury bonds were stronger, the dollar was little changed, gold lost 0.3% and oil rose toward $56 a barrel on a Libyan field shutdown.
Energy stocks led the way with a 0.8% gain as telecoms were the laggards, down 0.3%, continuing a recent string of losses. That boosted the April $83 Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) calls recommended to Edge Pro subscribers.
Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) surged 3.3% thanks to an upgrade by analysts at Piper Jaffray, pushing shares deeper into bubble hype territory. Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NYSE:WFM) gained 10% after activist Jana Partners confirmed an 8.8% stake in the company and its intention to push for an acceleration of turnaround plans and exploration of a possible sale.
On the downside, J M Smucker Co (NYSE:SJM) lost 1.3% on a downgrade from Morgan Stanley. But really, the fact that we’re talking about a jam maker reveals just how quiet trading was: Just 662 million shares traded on the NYSE, 73.4% of the 30-day average.
Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen made comments in Michigan late in the day, calling the U.S. economy healthy and admitting policymakers cannot wait too long to continue their tightening campaign. She said a 4.5% unemployment rate — which was hit in March — was consistent with her thinking on the “full employment” level. This, along with inflation moving above the Fed’s 2% target, suggests Yellen has achieved the Fed’s two main policy objectives.
Watch for more on the state of the job market on Tuesday when the Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey is released — one of Yellen’s preferred job market indicators. Also, the first-quarter earnings reporting season kicks off this week. And we’ll have an update on consumer spending on Friday with the latest retail sales numbers.
Markets will be closed on Friday for the Easter holiday weekend.
Anthony Mirhaydari is founder of the Edge (ETFs) and Edge Pro (Options) investment advisory newsletters. A two-week and four-week free trial offer has been extended to Investorplace readers. Redeem by clicking the links above.