Stocks were higher at the open on Thursday with the Dow gaining 73 points, or 0.2%. The S&P 500 added 0.5%, while the Nasdaq rose 1.2%.
The S&P 500 surged past 4,000 for the first time in morning trading. The move higher came on the heels of President Joe Biden announcing his multi trillion-dollar infrastructure plan, which includes spending on roads, bridges, green energy, and water system upgrades. “People are optimistic about growth, about the reopening of the economy, about going back to normal as a result of the vaccine rollout,” said Omar Aguilar, chief investment officer of passive equity and multi-asset strategies for Charles Schwab Investment Management. “But it’s a tug-of-war between growth and inflation.” Still, Arthur Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities Corp, added, “The market at 4,000 now is a much broader and better S&P 500 than it was at the peak of February 2020. It’s not just being driven by a handful of megacap technology stocks, it’s actually being driven by a broad-based sponsorship across almost all 11 of the S&P sectors. I think that’s a much healthier place to be.”
Jobless claims inched higher last week. The Labor Department reported initial claims rose by 61,000 to 719,000 for the week ended March 27, while economists had anticipated a reading of around 675,000 claims. The unexpected increase in initial claims underscores the choppy nature of the labor market recovery and that it will take time to recoup the millions of jobs lost to the pandemic. Still, with vaccinations increasing across the nation and business restrictions easing, employment is expected to accelerate in the coming months. Continuing claims, which run a week behind initial claims, fell by 46,000 to 3.8 million. “Taking the two weeks together it’s clear that the trend in claims is falling,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. “We expect a sustained sharp decline in the second quarter as the economy reopens, making it easier for businesses under financial stress to hold onto employees.”
Johnson & Johnson said a manufacturing error at a plant involved in the production of its COVID-19 vaccine affected 15 million doses. The issue occurred at an Emergent BioSolutions facility in Baltimore, and none of the doses of the J&J vaccine produced and shipped so far in the U.S. have come from that plant, which has not yet been authorized. “Quality and safety continue to be our top priority,” J&J said in a press release. “Therefore, as we continue to work with FDA and Emergent toward the Emergency Use Authorization of the Emergent Bayview Facility, Johnson & Johnson is providing additional experts in manufacturing, technical operations and quality to be on-site at Emergent to supervise, direct and support all manufacturing of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. In coordination with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, these steps will enable us to safely deliver an additional 24 million single-shot vaccine doses through April.
Facebook is running into some resistance on its acquisition of GIF database Giphy. Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said today that it has completed its initial probe into the Facebook-Giphy merger, which has already closed, and concluded that the $400 million deal raises competition concerns. The CMA said it now all run a so-called second-phase investigation through September 15, and warned that the Facebook-Giphy tie-up could harm rival social media platforms, citing concerns that the deal could allow Facebook to stifle the supply of Giphy’s library of video clips and animated videos on rival services. Facebook said in a statement that it will continue to fully cooperate with the CMA, adding that “this merger is good for competition and in the interests of everyone in the U.K. who uses Giphy and our services – from developers to service providers to content creators.”
And Funko share are up 10% at the time of writing after the toy maker announced that it has acquired a majority stake in TokenWave, giving a foot into the NFT market. TokenWave is behind the TokenHead app and website that tracks holdings in non fungible tokens. “Funko is thrilled to advance another platform that our fans and collectors will love and find valuable,” Funko CEO Brian Mariotti said in a press release. “Our strategy in this space is clear – bring the value-added NFT opportunity to our licensing partners to leverage our broad range of existing pop culture content across Television, Movies, Sports, Music, Anime, Video Games and Comic Books. Our amazing licensing partners are excited about our entry into this new digital space and we believe the diversity of our licensing portfolio sets us up for long-term success.
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Conn’s Inc (NASDAQ: CONN): Conn’s shares are up nearly 35% over the last two days after the furniture, home appliances, consumer electronics, and home office products announced its fiscal fourth quarter results. “Throughout fiscal year 2021, we took decisive actions focused on supporting our employees, customers, and communities, while de-risking our business, enhancing our balance sheet, and investing in digital and e-commerce. These actions combined with the dedication of our associates directly contributed to our ability to successfully navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Quarterly same store sales improved sequentially throughout fiscal year 2021, despite continued conservative underwriting strategies, which we believe demonstrates strong underlying demand for our products, and we anticipate positive same store sales momentum will continue into fiscal year 2022,” Norm Miller, Conn’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said in the earnings release. “We have emerged from the pandemic stronger, more efficient and well positioned to compete in a rapidly changing market, and fiscal year 2022 is off to a strong start. Same store sales are up over 3.0% quarter-to-date, despite the impacts of the historic winter storm across many of our markets, one fewer selling day as a result of leap year and continued supply chain challenges. These quarter-to-date results still reflect our more conservative underwriting strategy.”