The Dow industrials and Nasdaq Composite snapped to quick gains at Thursday’s open, as chip stocks booked some positive early moves, Express Scripts (ESRX) surged on a merger deal, and earnings results drove Burlington Stores (BURL) sharply higher.
The Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.4%, and S&P 500 added 0.3%, both bolstered by Express Scripts’ huge early leap.
Thursday’s market will have an eye on Washington, as legislators continue to wrestle the White House over tariffs set to be signed into action late today. The entire Northeast will also be an area of concern, with airlines canceling a reported 2,700 flights across the region in response to an ongoing snowstorm.
In overseas markets, stocks surged in Hong Kong after official data showed China’s export growth accelerated in February to their highest level in three years. The gains sent the Hang Seng index up 1.5%, as the benchmark attempts to stem a two-week decline.
In Japan, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 posted a more modest 0.5% gain. In Europe, trade shifted higher at the U.S. open, with the CAC-40 in Paris rallying 1.2% and Frankfurt’s DAX up 0.4% in afternoon trade.
Use IBD’s MarketSmith For Free Until March 11
See stocks near a buy point, get chart pattern recognition and run custom screens. Start Now
In the U.S., Thursday’s economic news opened with the monthly Job Cuts Report from Challenger, Gray & Christmas showing U.S. employers announced 35,369 layoffs in February. That was down 20% from January’s levels, and 4% below the number of layoffs announced a year ago.
The number of layoffs has now remained below 50,000 for 22 consecutive months, the longest in the gauge’s history. “The economy is almost at full employment, and companies are holding on to their workforces,” the report noted.
Weekly unemployment claims rebounded in the week ended March 3, the Labor Department estimated, rising to 231,000. That was up from the prior week’s 210,000 tally — a 48-year low — and was also well above analyst consensus views for 220,000 new applications.
Cigna, Express Scripts Deal; Chips Jump; Thor, Burlington Up On Earnings
Chip stocks were in early motion, as Intel gained 1.2% to lead the Dow, and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) added 1.4%.
Intel ended Wednesday at a new high, atop four straight up days and extended 8% from a 47.40 buy point in a flat base. AMD is testing resistance at its 200-day moving average, ending just below that level after paring its early 9% gain Wednesday.
Express Scripts opened 14% higher after health insurer Cigna (CI) confirmed it would pay $67 billion to acquire the pharmacy benefits manager. Cigna said it expects the deal, which includes $15 billion in debt, to close by the end of the year. A year ago, the courts blocked a proposed $48 billion merger between Cigna and fellow health insurer Anthem (ANTM).
Still, the move continues a recent round of massive reorganization in the sector, which included CVS Health’s (CVS) $68 billion purchase of Aetna (AET), the launch of Apple (AAPL) health clinics for its employees and a joint venture between Amazon.com (AMZN), Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) and JPMorgan (JPM) to more efficiently provide healthcare services to their 1 million employees.
Cigna shares dropped 7% in opening trade.
In earnings news, Burlington Stores buttoned up an early 9% gain. The New Jersey-based retailer reported late Wednesday fourth-quarter sales, earnings and same-store-sales above consensus projections. Burlington Stores also raised its full-year earnings guidance above analyst targets. The early gain hauled shares back above their 10-week moving average in the sixth week of a consolidation.
Thor Industries‘ (THO) fiscal second-quarter sales beat analyst estimates, while earnings apparently came up short of views. The company said the industry was benefiting from healthy lending standards and credit availability, and from a low rate of charge-offs. Thor shares rose 6% at Thursday’s open, then reversed to a slight loss to trade still 24% below their January high, and just below resistance at their 40-week moving average.
This post was originally published on *this site*