Moneybeat: Wall Street first quarter losses

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. Today is Monday, April 2nd. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s time now for the Monday Moneybeat.

New evidence for strength in the job market. The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level since 1973. The Labor Department reported jobless claims dropped by 12,000 last week to 215,000. The February unemployment rate stayed at 4.1 percent. That is a 17-year low.

REICHARD: Meantime, Americans’ take-home pay went up in February. The Commerce Department reported after-tax income increased a healthy 0.4 percent. Along with the rise in wages came a slight rise in consumer spending, just 0.2 percent. A government report last week says the modest spending increase in February followed an equal gain in the month of January.

EICHER: The healthy income gains could spur more spending in the coming months. Economists pay particular attention to income and spending data because they correlate with overall growth in the economy. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of Gross Domestic Product. 

And on the subject of GDP, the government last week revised its estimate of 4th quarter GDP to 2.9 percent. That capped a nine-month stretch in which the economy grew at the fastest pace in 12 years.

REICHARD: It was a short week on Wall Street, with the Good Friday holiday.

So Thursday was the last trading day not only for the week, but for the first quarter of the year. Solid gains on Thursday snapped a two-day losing streak and powered all the major indexes to a winning week. But it wasn’t good enough to make up for Wall Street’s first quarterly loss since 2015.

EICHER: Final results for the quarter: The Standard and Poor’s 500 index is off 1.2 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average down 2.5 percent. The index of smaller-company stocks, the Russell 2000, is behind 0.4 percent for the first quarter.

Only the Nasdaq recorded a positive first quarter, up 2.3 percent. No surprise there, as the Nasdaq is made up of many strong technology stocks.

REICHARD: Well, if you are leaving on a jet-plane, you should have a better idea when you’ll be back again.

The Department of Transportation reported U.S. airlines started the year with a slight improvement in keeping flights on time. The government said almost 80 percent of flights in January arrived within the allowed 14-minutes of schedule. That’s almost four percentage points better than last January.

Industry best: Alaska Airlines, 88.9 percent on time. Industry worst: JetBlue, 65.8 percent on time.

(AUDIO: Peter, Paul, and Mary, “Leaving on a Jet Plane”)

But there’s almost always bad news in these reports: This January saw more cancelled domestic flights over last January: three percent this year. It was two percent last year.

EICHER: And that’s this week’s Monday Moneybeat.

(AUDIO: “Jet Plane” music out)

(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File) FILE – In this Oct. 2, 2014, file photo, the statue of George Washington on the steps of Federal Hall faces the facade of the New York Stock Exchange. The U.S. stock market opens at 9:30 a.m. EDT on Friday, March 30, 2018. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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