U.S. stocks fluctuate after yesterday’s drop

Consumer Confidence

“Everyone is watching this Ukraine situation, not knowing what to make of it,” John Carey, a fund manager at Pioneer Investment Management Inc., a Boston-based firm that manages about $220 billion worldwide, said by phone. “Consumer confidence was a little low although I think people still need to coincide what the weather has done to the data.”

Consumer confidence in the U.S. unexpectedly dropped in March to a four-month low, indicating household spending may be slow to pick up from a weather-related setback earlier this year. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of sentiment fell to 79.9 this month from 81.6 in February.

A separate report showed producer prices dropped in February, held back by the biggest decrease in the cost of services in almost a year. The 0.1% decrease in the producer-price index followed a 0.2% rise the prior month.

Fed Stimulus

The Federal Reserve is trying to determine how much recent economic data has been affected by weather. Chair Janet Yellen said last month the U.S. economy was strong enough to withstand measured reductions to the central bank’s monthly bond purchases.

The Federal Open Market Committee, which meets March 18-19, has cut monthly bond buying to $65 billion from $85 billion in December. Policy makers have indicated they plan to taper by $10 billion at each meeting absent a weakening in the economy.

Three rounds of Fed stimulus have helped push the S&P 500 up 174% from a 12-year low, as U.S. equities begin the sixth year of a bull market that started March 9, 2009.

Volatility Gauge

The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, a gauge for U.S. stock volatility, rose 0.6% to 16.32 today. The measure has advanced 19% this year.

Seven of 10 main industries in the S&P 500 rose today, as utilities and raw-materials shares added 0.6%.

Aeropostale tumbled 14%, its biggest drop since August, to $6.25. The teen apparel retailer forecast a loss of as much as 75 cents a share for its first quarter, more than the 17-cent loss estimated by analysts. The company also said it has entered a strategic partnership with Sycamore Partners, which will provide the $150 million loan.

Boston Scientific Corp. climbed 3.5% to $13.19 after the company’s Ingevity pacemaker wires received European approval as they met certain product standards.

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