What's moving markets today: March 21, 2019

5:32 p.m. ET, March 21, 2019

JPMorgan: A pause in 737 Max production would cut economic growth

The production of Boeing's troubled 737 Max plane is important enough to the economy that a temporary halt in production would reduce the level of gross domestic product by 0.15% for the year, JPMorgan's analysts calculated.

Sales of the 737 were expected to total $35 billion this year, JPMorgan found, and the Max accounts for 90% of that total. That's one quarter of total domestic aircraft production.

Boeing (BA) has so far kept the assembly lines running, even as all 371 of the jets have been grounded following a pair of deadly crashes. As long as Boeing keeps making the planes -- even if it doesn't sell them -- the aggregate level of GDP won't be affected.

If planes stop rolling off the lines, however, the hit to aggregate GDP could be significant.

5:25 p.m. ET, March 21, 2019

Nike's sales jump 19% in China

Nike is hot around the world.

It's sneaker and clothing sales grew 7% in North America, 6% in Europe and 19% in China during the most quarter compared with a year earlier.

In February, Duke basketball star Zion Williamson broke his Nike shoe during a game, which caused Nike's stock to fall. But the strong quarter means that the incident did not have much of an impact on sales.

Nike (NKE) beat Wall Street's sales and profit expectations, but its shares still dipped 2% in after-hours trading.

That's probably because the bar for Nike's stock is already high. Shares have touched records in recent days as more investors buy into Nike's digital strategy and believe that the brand has potential to continue growing.

5:58 p.m. ET, March 21, 2019

Bank stocks missed the equities rally

The Fed's decision to pause rate hikes is hurting bank stocks as other sectors rally.

Boosted by tech stocks, the Dow rose 217 points Thursday. The S&P 500 jumped more than 1%.

But JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Bank of America (BAC), Wells Fargo (WFC) and Citigroup (C) all fell. The KBW Nasdaq Bank Index (BKX) shed more than 1.5% after diving more than 3% the previous day.

The rationale: Banks had been counting on higher rates to bump up how much interest they can charge on loans. The Fed's dovishness also signals underlying concern about the health of the US economy.

4:14 p.m. ET, March 21, 2019

Dow pops 217 points as tech stocks roar; Apple leaps 4%

Booming tech stocks carried Wall Street sharply higher on Thursday.

  • The Dow jumped 217 points, or 0.8%
  • The S&P 500 advanced 1.1%
  • And the Nasdaq soared 1.4%

Apple (AAPL) jumped 4% after analysts issued bullish research reports ahead of Monday’s major event.

Needham upgraded Apple to "strong buy" and raised its price target to $225 on confidence that the iPhone maker's ecosystem is "most likely to prevail" against its tech rivals.

Chip stocks Micron (MU), Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Nvidia (NVDA) also closed sharply higher.

Biogen (BIIB) plunged 29%, its worst day since February 2005, after halting trials on a promising Alzheimer’s treatment. Olive Garden owner Darden (DRI) climbed 7% as its turnaround gains steam.

Levi Strauss (LEVI) soared 32% in a successful IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. 

Banks continue to struggle after the Federal Reserve indicated it won’t raise interest rates until 2020. Bank of America (BAC) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) fell nearly 2% apiece. Regional banks tumbled further.

1:02 p.m. ET, March 21, 2019

Apple carries Wall Street sharply higher

Apple is at the heart of a tech-led rally on Wall Street.

  • The Dow was up 140 points, or 0.5%, Thursday afternoon. The index was up as much as 235 points at one point
  • The S&P 500 gained 0.7%
  • And the Nasdaq jumped 0.9%

Apple (AAPL) bounced 3% in reaction to bullish analyst reports and ahead of Monday's major event.

Elsewhere, investors are trying to decide what the latest moves by the Federal Reserve mean for stocks and the economy. The Fed on Wednesday signaled it won't raise rates in 2019, a sharp reversal from just a few months ago, and it trimmed its growth outlook.

Michael Block, market strategist at Third Seven Advisors, has a more optimistic take.

I've been hearing that it's the end of the cycle for five years," Block said. "But the cycle may never end if the Fed keeps acting this way."

Block also expressed amazement that US stocks are popping in the face of Biogen (BIIB) "blowing up." The widely held biotech stock plummeted 29% after halting a trial for a promising Alzheimer's treatment.

11:56 a.m. ET, March 21, 2019

NYSE lifts its ban on jeans so traders can wear denim to celebrate Levi's IPO

The New York Stock Exchange relaxed its ban on jeans to celebrate the debut of Levi's (LEVI) IPO. To celebrate, some traders donned their finest denim:

11:38 a.m. ET, March 21, 2019

Levi's spikes 30% on its first day of trading