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Morning Market Roundup: Durable Goods Down, EU Loans Down, BK Cage-Free Promise, U.S. Futures Buoyed


Here’s what’s important in the financial world this morning:

Durable Goods: Orders for long-lasting factory goods fell by the largest amount in three years last month, mostly because demand for commercial aircraft plummeted. But companies also ordered less machinery and other equipment, a sign manufacturing output may slow.

Orders for durable goods dropped 4.2 percent in March, the steepest fall since January 2009, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Commercial aircraft orders, a volatile category, fell by nearly 50 percent.

Excluding transportation equipment, orders declined 1.1 percent. That's the second drop in that category in three months.

And orders for so-called "core" capital goods, a good measure of business investment plans, declined 0.8 percent. Companies are reducing their orders for steel and other metals, industrial machinery and computers.

A durable good is expected to last at least three years. Examples range from appliances and cars to heavy machinery and planes.

EU: European banks, flush with cheap credit from the European Central Bank, are making it easier for consumers and companies to get loans - but demand for credit remains very low due to worries over the region's economic prospects.

The ECB's closely watched survey of lending practices released Wednesday indicated a substantial thawing of credit conditions among banks since it gave them (EURO)1 trillion ($1.3 trillion) in cheap loans.

On paper, that is a hopeful sign for the European economy as it struggles with a crisis over too much government debt. However, the survey also indicates businesses and households are not applying for that credit because they are concerned about the outlook for the eurozone economy, which is expected to shrink 0.3 percent this year according to EU forecasts.

In particular, banks said they saw less demand from consumers for mortgage loans and from businesses for credit to expand their plants and equipment.

Burger King: The movement by U.S. food corporations toward more humane treatment of animals experienced a whopper of a shift Wednesday when Burger King announced that all of its eggs and pork will come from cage-free chickens and pigs by 2017.

The decision by the U.S.'s second-largest fast-food restaurant raises the bar for other companies seeking to appeal to the rising consumer demand for more humanely produced fare.

The decision by Burger King, which uses hundreds of millions of eggs and tens of millions of pounds of pork annually, could represent a game-change in the egg and pork supply business as a huge new market has opened up for humanely raised food animals. Already 9 percent of the company's eggs and 20 percent of its pork are cage-free.

U.S. Stock Futures: Solid earnings reports lifted U.S. stock market futures Wednesday, after boosting stocks around the world.

Dow Jones industrial average futures are up 0.29 percent at 12,996. Standard & Poor's 500 futures are gaining 0.63 percent to 1,378.80 and Nasdaq 100 futures are up 2.02 percent at 2,685.75.

Nasdaq is getting a big boost from Apple Inc., whose second quarter results topped Wall Street expectations as iPhone sales soared. Apple shares gained more than 10 percent in premarket trading, setting the stock up to resume trading above $600. Several analysts raised their price targets on the stock, with $800 becoming common.

Also turning in strong earnings reports, Boeing Co. exceeded analyst estimates on the strength of commercial airplane sales. Caterpillar posted a 29 percent jump in first-quarter profit as U.S. construction firms replaced old gear and global mining companies purchased equipment. Harley-Davidson Inc. reported a 44 percent rise in profit on a 20 percent jump in sales of motorcycles and related products.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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