MarketWatch Top 10 stories April 11 - 15
The Dow Jones Industrial Average(DJIA) fell 0.3%, the S&P 500 (SPX) fell 0.6% and the Nasdaq Composite (COMP) shed 0.6% as well.
Treasury prices extended gains Friday, pushing yields down for the first week in four, as mounting worries about the debt crisis in Europe made U.S. bonds more attractive.
Also supporting bonds, two readings on inflation and inflation expectations offered some relief to investors worried about inflation eating into bond returns.
In the commodities markets, gold futures climbed Friday to close at a record $1,486 an ounce, up 0.8% for the week, with silver hitting its highest level in over three decades, as inflation concerns buoyed investment demand for the precious metals.
"Gold prices remain supported on the back of its appeal as a hedge against inflation, amidst emerging inflationary concerns in the U.S., Europe and China," analysts at ICICI Bank wrote in a note to clients.
The day's settlement price beat out the previous record close of $1,474.10 an ounce seen a week ago.
Light, sweet crude for May (CLK11) added $1.55, or 1.4%, to settle at $109.66 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On the week, however, oil lost 2.8%.
Prices turned higher after a key gauge of consumer confidence showed U.S. investors a bit more optimistic about the economy. Earlier Friday, oil traders reacted favorably to U.S. inflation and industrial production reports.
Also, please be sure to watch our Week Ahead videos for Asia, Europe and the U.S.
U.S. week Ahead: Apple, Intel, Playbook
Asia Week Ahead; Japan May Post Trade Deficit
Europe Week Ahead: Nokia, Phillips in Focus
Greg Morcroft, assistant managing editor
Bank of America Corp. (BAC) reported a quarterly profit of $2 billion Friday, as the largest U.S. bank by assets saw improvement at its credit-card unit, while investment-banking and trading results declined from the year-earlier period. The company also said it named Bruce Thompson as its chief financial officer, succeeding Chuck Noski, who will become vice chairman. Read MarketWatch coverage of Bank of America earnings
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) reported a 67% jump in quarterly profit Wednesday, as credit costs dropped at the second-largest U.S. bank by assets. The bank also increased its quarterly dividend to 25 cents a share from 5 cents a share and set plans to buy back $8 billion in stock this year as part of a $15 billion stock-repurchase program. J.P. Morgan said its first-quarter net income rose to $5.6 billion, or $1.28 a share, from $3.3 billion, or 74 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Read MarketWatch coverage of J.P. Morgan earnings
The prices paid by American consumers rose sharply again in March, mainly because of higher gasoline and grocery costs, according to the latest government data.The consumer price index rose 0.5% last month, the Labor Department reported Friday. The so-called core rate rose a lesser 0.1%. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected CPI, which tracks inflation at the retail level, to rise by 0.5% overall, or by 0.2% on a core basis. Read MarketWatch coverage of CPI
Is anywhere safe? Wall Street will tell you that government bonds issued by advanced Western countries are the safest investments money can buy.But recent events have made a mockery of that idea. If it weren't for international rescue packages, Greece, Ireland and Portugal surely would have defaulted on their bonds. According to the International Monetary Fund, only a handful of countries are really rock solid.They include Australia and New Zealand, as well as the countries of Scandinavia — Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway. Read MarketWatch coverage of safe sovereign debt
Two more companies are maneuvering into position in the busy IPO market: Glencore and Groupon. Both bring an interesting back story to the market.Glencore is the commodity market's 800-pound gorilla. The secretive Swiss-based trading house built its fortune by taking major positions in the world's metals, energy and agricultural markets. In other words, it's heavily invested in real assets — the food we eat, the fuels we burn and the materials we use in manufacturing. Read more on MarketWatch about upcoming IPOs
The April 18 tax deadline is almost here. Right on the heels of that bad news comes a postal rate hike going into effect on April 17. Only a few cents, but your tax returns might be returned to you, unfiled, if you don't have the extra three cents for tax returns weighing more than one ounce.That's another good reason to e-file, says Pennsylvania attorney Stephen Asbel. We're coming into the final stretch. What do you need to know this weekend? Read MarketWatch coverage of last minute tax tips
The Japanese earthquake may be having more of an impact on the U.S. economy than previously believed, according to the Federal Reserve's latest Beige Book survey of current economic conditions released on Wednesday. A majority of the Fed's 12 regional districts reported "actual or expected disruptions to sales and production" as a result of the Japan earthquake. Surprisingly most of the districts that reported difficulty as a result of the Japan tragedy were on the East Coast or in the middle of the country. There were no reports of disruptions in California. Read marketwatch report on the Beige Book
The budget deal struck last week by Congress to keep the government from shutting down slashes money for high-speed rail projects and the Environmental Protection Agency but boosts the Pentagon's budget by about $5 billion. The agreement sets final spending levels at $1.049 trillion for fiscal 2011, which ends Sept. 30, and cuts nearly $39 billion from last year's spending levels. That's much less than Republicans sought but bigger than President Barack Obama and Democrats wanted. Read MarketWatch budget compromise cover
It's spring, that time of year when many prospective home buyers begin the hunt for their next residence. But with home-price declines, more foreclosures to come and slow improvements in the employment market, some say it's likely this year's buying and selling season will be another bust."We're all hoping that this spring and summer will bring about a housing rally, but there are too many impediments for that to happen," said Anthony Sanders, a professor of finance and real estate at George Mason University. Read MarketWatch coverage of spring home selling season outlook
Australia's push to become the first country to mandate cigarette packaging with almost no branding and huge, graphic health-warning labels has inflamed the tempers of tobacco companies, which are vowing to protect shareholder interests by taking their fight to the courts. The proposed laws would mark the latest blow to tobacco firms, already battling volume contraction, swelling illegal trade and global anti-smoking campaigns.But analysts have nonetheless identified some signs of life in the challenged, multi-billion dollar industry, with emerging markets presenting the best opportunities. Read MarketWatch coverage of Australian tobacco sector