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The Markets Now: Stocks Remain Higher, S&P 500 Hovers Around Record

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Plus, Chinese regulators plan more oversight of Apple warranties.

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Stocks have remained elevated for most of the day despite the mixed data released today. The S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) climbed 0.19% to 1,565.86; the current closing record of the S&P stands at 1,565.15. The Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) increased 0.19% to 14,554.23, and the Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) rose 0.11% to 3,260.17. GDP grew at an annual rate of 0.4% from the third quarter to the fourth quarter of 2012, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (or BEA) of the US Department of Commerce. This is the third estimate from the BEA; the second estimate showed GDP grew at an annualized rate of 0.1%. Real GDP grew 3.1% in the third quarter of 2012.

Real personal consumption and expenditures increased 1.8% in the fourth quarter versus 1.6% in the third quarter. Real nonresidential fixed investment increased 13.2% in the fourth quarter versus 1.8% in the third quarter. Real residential fixed investment increased 17.6% versus a 13.5% increase in the third quarter. Plus, imports, which subtract from GDP, fell 4.2% compared to a decrease of 0.6% in the third quarter.

Private inventory investment subtracted 1.52% from fourth-quarter GDP after adding 0.73% in the third quarter. Real federal government spending decreased 14.8% in the fourth quarter versus a 9.5% increase in the third quarter. Real exports fell 2.8% in the fourth quarter after increasing 1.9% in the third quarter. Real state and local government spending decreased 1.5% in contrast to a 0.3% gain in the third quarter.

The BEA also reported that corporate profits increased $45.4 billion in the fourth quarter compared to an increase of $45.7 billion in the third quarter. Current production cash flow, the internal funds available to corporations for investment, decreased $89.9 billion in the fourth quarter compared to a $32.5 billion increase in the third quarter. Profits before tax increased $27.3 billion in the fourth quarter versus $86.2 billion in the third quarter.

For the week ended March 23, the US Department of Labor reported that seasonally adjusted new jobless claims increased 16,000 to 357,000 week-over-week. The four-week moving average climbed 2,250 from 340,750 to 343,000.

Seasonally adjusted continuing claims declined by 27,000 from 3,077,000 to 3,050,000. The four-week moving average fell 13,000 from 3,085,500 to 3,072,500.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City reported that its March Manufacturing Survey composite index increased from -10 in February to -5 in March. The composite index is the average of production, new orders, employment, supplier delivery time, and raw materials inventory indices. The production index increased from -11 to -1. The new orders index stood at 0, the highest reading in seven months. However, the new orders for exports index fell to -7. The employment index reached its lowest level since July 2009 with a reading of -15. The raw materials index increased from -8 to -2. The supplier delivery time index had a reading of -5.

The Institute for Supply Management - Chicago reported that the seasonally adjusted Chicago Business Barometer fell 4.4 points to 52.4 in March from 56.8 in February. A reading over 50 indicates business expansion. All components of the index declined except for supplier lead times. The seasonally adjusted production component fell from 60.2 to 51.8. The seasonally adjusted new orders component fell from 60.2 to 53, the largest decline since May 2011. The seasonally adjusted order backlogs component dropped from 50.9 to 45. The seasonally adjusted inventories component fell from 50.1 to 41. The seasonally adjusted employment component fell from 55.7 to 55.1. The seasonally adjusted prices paid component decreased from 61.8 to 61. The seasonally adjusted supplier deliveries increased from 50.3 to 58.

The Bloomberg Consumer Confidence Index decreased again week-over-week from -33.0 to -34.4. Only 20% of respondents stated they believe the economy is in good shape, which is 15% below the long-term average. The data is collected by a random sample survey of individuals within the US who are asked about their views on the US economy, their personal finances, and the buying climate.

The Energy Information Administration reported that natural gas in storage fell by 95 billion cubic feet in the week of March 22 to 1,781 billion cubic feet.

The US Treasury announced that it will auction $35 billion worth of 3-month Treasury bills and $30 billion worth of 6-month Treasury bills on April 1. The Treasury will also auction $25 billion worth of 12-month Treasury bills on April 2.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) fell 1.74% to $444.23. The Chinese State Administration for Industry and Commerce said today that it would tighten oversight on Apple and other technology companies. Details on the nature of the oversight remain vague.

Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE:CLF) went up 2.31% to $18.89. Shares of the company bounced today after Morgan Stanley analyst Evan Kurtz downgraded the iron ore miner from Equal Weight to Underweight, causing a sell-off of the company's stock yesterday. Kurtz lowered his price target 61% to $14.

GameStop (NYSE:GME) lifted 7.33% to $28.39. For its fourth quarter ended February 2, GameStop reported net income of $261.1 million, or $2.15 per share, compared to $174.7 million, or $1.27 per share, in the prior-year quarter. Excluding items, earnings were $2.16 per share. Fourth-quarter revenue was $3.56 billion. Analysts expected earnings of $2.09 per share on $3.45 billion in revenue.

For the 2013 fiscal year, GameStop expects full-year sales to drop 8% to a revenue of between $8.18 billion and $8.89 billion. Analysts on average, according to Thomson Reuters, expect $8.86 billion in revenue.

Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD) rose 2.23% to $48.78, continuing its climb for a third straight day.

MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS) rose 4.56% to $11.01. Advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services, or ISS, told investors to block MetroPCS's merger with T-Mobile USA. ISS believes MetroPCS has better chances of growth as an independent company and should focus on acquiring more wireless airwaves to make itself a better takeover candidate in the future.

Twitter: @ChrisWitrak
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