U.S. stocks ended just in positive territory following a barrage of U.S. economic data and new developments in the eurozone.
Stocks rallied this morning after the Labor Department said new jobless claims last week fell 1,000 to a one-month low of 367,000. The median forecast of 47 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for 368,000. Other reports showed that a gauge of consumer confidence declined to a three-month low, and the trade deficit widened on rising demand for imports from oil to autos. The Commerce Department reported the U.S. trade deficit widened 14% in March to $51.8 billion, exceeding forecasts.
The U.S. trade data followed a similar report in China that showed a sharp drop in activity in April, with both export and import growth falling well short of expectations. Exports rose 4.9% in April from a year earlier, while imports rose just 0.3%, data released by China's General Administration of Customs showed.
Adding some positive momentum, this afternoon the U.S. government posted its first monthly budget surplus since September 2008, as tax receipts climbed and spending on education, Medicare and certain defense programs fell.
In Europe, Spanish bond prices rose, sending yields lower, after the government moved to partly nationalize its fourth-largest lender. Spanish officials tomorrow are expected to detail a plan for banks to strengthen their balance sheets and protect themselves against failing real estate loans. Also, Greek Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos is continuing attempts to form a ruling coalition following last weekend's parliamentary elections, the third party leader to try forming a government.
The Bank of England also voted against another round of quantitative easing, citing inflation risks. The central bank also left its key interest rate unchanged at a record low 0.5%. Both decisions were widely expected.
In company news, MGT Capital Investments, Inc. (NYSEMKT:MGT) shares rallied following the company's announcement that it will acquire a majority interest in MGT Gaming, Inc., and has entered into a binding agreement to acquire U.S. Patent number 7,892,088, entitled "Gaming Device Having a Second Separate Bonusing Event." At the same time, MGT announced that pursuing patent acquisitions will be a major part of the company's business strategy, going forward.
Crude-oil futures broke a six-session losing streak on bargain hunting. Crude for June delivery rose 0.3%, to $97.08 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The metals ended mixed, but gold futures inched higher, helped by a weaker dollar. Gold for June delivery rose $1.30, or 0.1%, to settle at $1,595.50 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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