Stocks Finish Mixed; March Jobs Report Looms
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks finished on a mixed note on Thursday as Wall Street balanced expectations for a positive jobs report on Friday against concerns about Spain's soaring borrowing costs.
The Nasdaq, however, bucked the selling and rose 12 points, or 0.4%, to settle at 3080.
The major U.S. equity indices traded within a narrow range through most of the trading session, which comes ahead of a long holiday weekend as the exchanges will be closed tomorrow for Good Friday. For the week, the Dow was down 1.2%, the S&P 500 dipped 0.7%, and the Nasdaq fell 0.4%, kicking off the calendar second quarter on a negative note.
The biggest selling came on Wednesday as Wall Street digested a clear signal from the Federal Reserve on Tuesday that more quantitative easing was far from a done deal. The minutes of the most recent meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee indicated support for more asset purchases was scant unless the economy takes a turn for the worse. That news drove the dollar higher and sparked selling in gold and oil.
Early Thursday, the action in the broad market mirrored a sell-off in risk assets during the European session as yields on Spanish 10-year bonds rose another 12 basis points to 5.81%. The yields reached a pinnacle for the year and raced past levels seen when the European Central Bank installed the first leg of its long-term refinancing program on Dec. 21 by more than 50 basis points.
The tepid demand for Spanish debt was a reminder that the country could be next in line for a bailout as global investors showed they were not yet prepared to hold the country's bonds without a higher risk premium.
With the Spanish economy slipping further into the doldrums, Madrid has cautioned that the country's debt-to-gross domestic product ratio could soar to 79.8% in 2012 from 68.5% last year. The country is already dealing with widespread joblessness with the unemployment rate above 20% and will likely face further obstacles to growth with the government's severe budget cuts.
"Stress has returned to the periphery of the Euro area. Since the beginning of March, Spanish bond yields have risen by 80
London's FTSE edged up 0.4%, reclaiming positive territory as the session closed. Germany's DAX retreated 0.1%, paring losses. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei Average fell 0.5% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed lower by almost 1%.