Investors watched for Chinese trade data due out Friday.
Traders were hoping for a “good set of figures” from Beijing following unexpectedly strong March manufacturing and inflation data, said Jingyi Pan of IG in a report.
Major U.S. stock indexes closed unevenly Thursday after losses in health care stocks mostly offset gains in industrial companies and banks. Major European indexes closed mostly higher. The Standard & Poor’s 500 added less than 0.1% to 2,888.32. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.1%, to 26,143.05. The Nasdaq composite slid 0.2%, to 7,947.36.
Traders are focused on company earnings reports the next few weeks in hopes of gleaning fresh clues about the trajectory of the economy.
Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose but remained below $64 per barrel.
The dollar gained against the yen and fell against the euro.
IMF chief: Trade conflicts threaten fragile world economy
WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the International Monetary Fund is warning that with global growth slowing and many countries struggling with high debts, now is not the time for the “self-inflicted” economic wound of trade wars.
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde spoke Thursday at a news conference at the opening of spring meetings of the IMF and its sister lending organization, the World Bank.
She said a key guideline for policymakers at this “delicate” time should be: “Do no harm.”
Lagarde didn’t specifically mention a year-long standoff between the United States and China, but she didn’t have to: The world’s two biggest economies have slapped tariffs on $350 billion worth of each other’s products in the biggest trade war since the 1930s.
They are fighting over Beijing’s drive to challenge American technological dominance — an effort the U.S. says involves stealing technology and coercing U.S. companies into handing over trade secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market.
The trade tensions are coming at an especially bad time. The outlook for the global economy has deteriorated. A year ago, Lagarde was talking up a world of shared growth: 75% of the global economy was enjoying a synchronized upswing. Now, she says, 70% of the global economy is enduring slower growth.
McConnell won’t say if Senate would back Herman Cain for Fed
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to say Thursday whether he thinks his chamber would confirm Herman Cain to join the Federal Reserve board, casting doubt on the former Republican presidential candidate’s prospects should President Donald Trump advance him for the post.
Asked if a Cain nomination would face problems, McConnell, R-Ky., noted that successful nominees must pass background checks and have a likelihood of confirmation.
Trump’s interest in potentially nominating Cain along with another political ally, conservative commentator Stephen Moore, has sparked questions among lawmakers from both parties in Congress about the president’s influence on the central bank.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell reiterated the importance of the Fed’s independence during a talk Thursday evening with House Democrats meeting in Virginia for their annual issues retreat, according to a source in the room unauthorized to discuss the private session.
Powell told lawmakers that he saw his role as totally apolitical. He also said the Fed does not consider political pressure in its decision making, the source said. Another source in the room confirmed the remarks.
The chairman fielded questions from lawmakers during a question-and-answer session in Lansdowne, but declined to comment on the president’s potential picks.
J. Crew considers IPO for its successful sister Madewell
NEW YORK (AP) — Clothing retailer J. Crew Group Inc. says it’s considering a potential initial public offering for its successful Madewell brand.
The announcement Thursday comes after the struggling company completed a review of the options for its business.
It says a Madewell IPO, if pursued, could be completed as early as the second half of this year.
Separately, it named Michael Nicholson, president and chief operating officer, interim CEO of J. Crew Group Inc. Retail veteran Mickey Drexler led J. Crew for more than a decade, helping it become a coveted fashion brand before it hit a multi-year sales slump. He severed his last ties with the company in January.
The news comes as some fashion companies are trying to capitalize on a burgeoning IPO market. Denim giant Levi Strauss & Co. returned to the public market in March as it stages a comeback even as it faces increasing competition and a changing retail landscape.
Some fashion companies are also looking to split up their businesses. Gap Inc. said in late February that it plans to split into two independent publicly traded companies — low-priced juggernaut Old Navy and a yet-to-be named company, which will consist of the iconic Gap brand, Banana Republic and the lesser known Athleta, Intermix and Hill City. Last year, VF Corp. said it will be splitting its denim business anchored by Lee and Wrangler jeans into an independently traded company.
J. Crew recently began to add a wider variety of styles as a way to turn around its business. Meanwhile, Madewell has done well with its classic, quality clothing. In its latest fiscal year ended Feb. 2, J. Crew sales fell 4% while Madewell’s sales soared 26%.
ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD
Business and economic reports scheduled for release today
UNDATED (AP) — Two major banks, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, report quarterly financial results before the market opens today.
CENSUS OF AGRICULTURE
Agriculture report shows fewer but larger farms in US
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The latest Census of Agriculture shows the number of farms and ranches in the U.S. has fallen but the remaining operations are larger and are responsible for a higher percentage of agricultural sales.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released the 2017 Census of Agriculture on Thursday, marking the 29th release of the report since the government began collecting the data in 1840. Since 1982, it has been released every five years.
The census shows there were 2.04 million farms and ranches in 2017, down 3.2 percent from 2012. The average size of those operations was 441 acres, an increase of 1.6 percent.
About 75 percent of all sales came from only 105,453 of those farms, down more than 14,000 from 2012.
The average age of producers was 57.5.
Uber reveals strong growth, huge losses ahead of IPO
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Uber is providing a look under the hood of its business in the lead-up to its hotly anticipated debut on the stock market, revealing strong growth but an ongoing struggle to overcome huge losses and repair its reputation.
The massive filing shows Uber has been generating the robust revenue growth that entices investors, but also racked up nearly $8 billion in losses over its 10 years in existence, which mirrors the same trend challenging Lyft, Uber’s main rival in the U.S.
Uber’s revenue totaled $11.3 billion in 2018, a 42% increase from $7.9 billion in 2017.
The company posted a profit of $997 million last year. The positive result stemmed from a windfall that Uber generated from the sale of its operations in Russia and Southeast Asia. The company said it sustained an operating loss of $3 billion.
The San Francisco company also disclosed a legal cloud hanging over its head as government authorities and regulators investigate whether the company broke any laws.
The probes are among the many risks that investors must weigh as they mull whether to jump into one of the biggest IPOs in years.
Boeing makes 96 flights to test software on troubled Max jet
DALLAS (AP) — Boeing’s CEO says crews have made 96 flights to test a software update for its troubled 737 Max jet and will make more in coming weeks as the company attempts to convince regulators to let the plane fly again.
Speaking at a leadership forum at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas on Thursday, Dennis Muilenburg also said that the company has met with pilots and airline officials in the U.S. and abroad, holding flight-simulator sessions to demonstrate the software changes.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which will consider whether the plane can resume flying in the U.S., plans to meet Friday with safety officials and pilots from American, Southwest and United, the three U.S. carriers that were using the Max jet.
Regulators around the world grounded the Max last month after deadly crashes involving the plane in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
Separately, Sen. Edward Markey and other Senate Democrats introduced a bill that would require aircraft makers to provide airlines with all safety equipment now considered optional and to do it at no extra charge.
SpaceX launches mega rocket year after debut with sports car
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — — SpaceX launched its second supersized rocket and for the first time landed all three boosters Thursday, a year after sending up a sports car on the initial test flight.
The new and improved Falcon Heavy thundered into the early evening sky with a communication satellite called Arabsat, the rocket’s first paying customer. The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket in use today, with 27 engines firing at liftoff — nine per booster.
Eight minutes after liftoff, SpaceX landed two of the first-stage boosters back at Cape Canaveral, side by side, just like it did for the rocket’s debut last year. The core booster landed two minutes later on an ocean platform hundreds of miles offshore. That’s the only part of the first mission that missed.
The Falcon Heavy soared from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, using the same pad that shot Apollo astronauts to the moon a half-century ago and later space shuttle crews.
SpaceX chief Elon Musk put his own Tesla convertible on last year’s demo. The red Roadster — with a mannequin at the wheel — remains in a solar orbit stretching just past Mars.
Disney will launch streaming service late this year
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Disney says its new video streaming service will launch in the U.S. on November 12.
The service, called Disney Plus, will cost $6.99 per month, or $69.99 per year.
The streaming service is expected to take on rivals Netflix, HBO Go and Showtime Anytime. Disney also owns a controlling stake in streaming service Hulu. But the Disney service has a narrower focus on family-friendly shows and movies, including a live action Star Wars series and a series about Marvel character Loki.
Like Netflix, Disney Plus will be free of ads.
Disney ended a lucrative licensing relationship with Netflix in order to create the streaming service and faces challenges as it builds a service to compete with the entrenched streaming leaders.
The company announced details of its long-awaited streaming service at an event in Burbank, California, on Thursday.
Judge gives Justice Department a deadline in lottery case
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A federal judge has given the U.S. Justice Department two weeks to clarify its stance on laws regulating internet gambling after hearing arguments from New Hampshire officials.
The case has potential implications for the future of state lotteries and the programs, often educational, that they fund.
The judge issued the deadline Thursday for the department to determine the reach of the federal Wire Act and then another seven days for other parties to respond. After that, the judge is expected to rule on the lawsuit filed by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission.
It’s unclear whether the ruling would apply only to New Hampshire or to all 47 states with government operated lotteries.
Several of those, including Michigan and Pennsylvania, filed friend-of-the court briefs in this case.
SOUTH KOREA-JAPAN-SEAFOOD BAN
WTO upholds South Korean ban on Fukushima seafood
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The World Trade Organization has upheld South Korea’s import ban on Japanese seafood from areas affected by the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima.
South Korea on Friday welcomed the decision and said it will continue to block all fishery products from Fukushima and seven neighboring prefectures to ensure “only foods that are confirmed as safe are put on the table.”
South Korea imposed the ban in 2013 after the Tokyo Electric Power Company revealed that highly contaminated water leaked from a storage tank at a crippled nuclear plant in Fukushima that was submerged by a massive tsunami in 2011.
Japan launched a complaint with the WTO over the ban in 2015, saying that the radioactive levels of seafood from the areas were safe.