US stocks in sharp reversal on rising geopolitical tensions, Fed speak

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US stocks in sharp reversal on rising geopolitical tensions, Fed speak U.S. stocks reversed sharply Thursday, on rising geopolitical tensions and hawkish remarks from Federal Reserve officials just ahead of the crucial monthly jobs report due Friday.

At 15:0¢ ET (19:04 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 417 points, or 1.1%, the S&P 500 fell 0.7%, and NASDAQ Composite fell 0.8%. 

Israel-Iran tensions flare, Fed speakers sound caution on cuts 

Geopolitical tensions ratcheted up amid fears indirect skirmishes between Israel and Iran are set to escalate. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to operate against Iran and its proxies in the face of imminent threat expected from Iran. The remarks come just days after Iran vowed to seek revenge for an alleged Israeli attack on its consulate in Syria. 

As well as geopolitical tensions, further remarks from Fed officials calling for patient on rate cuts continued to dominate attention, with Minneapolis Fed president Neel Kashkari saying no rate cuts would be be needed this year should the trend of cooling inflation fade. 

Despite the remarks, however, Treasury yields continue to trade in the red, suggesting that hawkish remarks weren't surprising somewhat. 

Initial jobless claims jump to highest since January just ahead of nonfarm payrolls

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits increased more than expected last week, according to data released earlier Thursday, with claims rising 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 221,000 for the week ended March 30. This was above the 214,000 expected.

Claims had bounced around between 212,000 and 210,000 for much of March, and this rise suggested that labor market conditions were weakening.

Signs of cooling in the labor market, come just days before Friday's closely-watched nonfarm payrolls release for March. 

Fed speakers, meanwhile, continued to lean into the Fed's wait-and-see approach to cut rates. The Fed has the luxury of waiting to cut rates as inflation data since the turn of the year "has been a little less encouraging," Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin said Thursday. 

Tech stocks reverse course; Meta (NASDAQ: META ) eases from record

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ), Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN ), Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ), and Meta Platforms Inc (NASDAQ: META ) gave up the bulk of gains, and the latter eased from a record high despite positive remarks from Jefferies. 

Jefferies lifted its price target on Meta to $585 from $550, on optimism that the social media company could capture about 50% of incremental industry ad dollars in 2024, with ad revenue potentially growing at 20%, supported by generative artificial intelligence.

Levis Strauss, Conara Brands shine on earnings stage

Levi Strauss (NYSE: LEVI ) rose more than 14% after clothes retailer lifted its annual earnings guidance after clocking stronger-than-expected quarterly results.

The results reflect the company's push toward a direct-to-consumer approach that is expected to continue to boost performance.

"We see continued expansion in gross margin as the company becomes more DTC-led and sees more growth in international and the tops category," UBS said in a note as it lifted its price target on the stock to $25 from $23.

Conagra Brands (NYSE: CAG ), meanwhile, jumped 5% after the packaged goods food company raised its full-year adjusted operating margin outlook amid better-than-expected quarterly results as ramp-up in marketing boosted sales.


Nikola powers ahead; Hubspot reportedly attracts Google talks on potential offer

Nikola (NASDAQ: NKLA ) stock rose over 5% after the EV manufacturer surpassed estimates for deliveries of its hydrogen big rigs in the first quarter.

Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL ) is in talks with Hubspot to make an offer for the marketing software company, Reuters reported, citing sources, sending HubSpot (NYSE: HUBS ) more than 5% higher. 

(Peter Nurse, Ambar Warrick contributed to this article.)

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