A barrage of economic data and reports of some major M&A activity gave markets a boost on Thursday, although volume was relatively light for most securities. The number of idled U.S. workers applying for jobless benefits fell by 6,000 last week, and Devon Energy reported that British oil giant BP had agreed to buy its international and deepwater Gulf of Mexico Portfolio for $7 billion. Trading in Citigroup represented nearly one fourth of the markets overall volume following bullish comments from CEO Vikram Pandit. Citi finished the day up 4%.
The ETFdb 60 Index, a benchmark measuring the performance of asset classes available through ETFs, added 1.79 points to close at 1,045.72. Winners outnumbered losers by nearly two-to-one.
The United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG) lost 3.2% on the day, closing at a new all-time low of $8.06. Natural gas futures lost ground following a report from the Energy Information Administration indicating that drawdowns from natural gas supplies were 111 billion cubic feet for the week ended March 5, matching last year’s draw and slightly above the five-year average. Despite the fact that natural gas stocks are now about 4% below last year’s levels, prices have suffered in recent sessions.
Big moves following the release of the EIA’s weekly data release is nothing new for UNG, as the fund regularly moves by 200 basis points or more in Thursday trading (see Thursdays With UNG for a look at historical trading statistics on data release days).
The iShares MSCI Japan Index Fund (EWJ) added 1.0% on the day after the Nikkei reported that the Japanese government is likely to upgrade its overall assessment of the economy for the first time since July. The newspaper wouldn’t identify the source of the information, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said that a decision on whether or not to raise the official assessment had not been reached.
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Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.