Technology companies powered a broad rally for U.S. stocks Thursday, snapping the market’s two-day losing streak. Apple and chipmakers led the wave of buying, helping to drive the technology sector to an overall gain of 2.5 percent. The sector is up 21.1 percent this year so far, well ahead of the S&P 500’s 10 other sectors. The latest gains erased the market’s modest losses from a day earlier, when the Federal Reserve said it expected the U.S. economy to slow down and that it no longer expected to raise interest rates this year. The S&P 500 index rose 30.65 points, or 1.1 percent, to 2,854.88. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 216.84 points, or 0.8 percent, to 25,962.51. The Nasdaq composite, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, climbed 109.99 points, or 1.4 percent, to 7,838.96. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 19.25 points, or 1.2 percent, to 1,562.41.
Confidence drops, rural banker survey says
A monthly survey of rural bankers in parts of 10 Plains and Western states shows bankers are losing confidence in the future of the region’s farm economy in the wake of falling farm income and rising floodwaters. The Rural Mainstreet survey for March showed the survey’s confidence index dropping to 45.7 from February’s 48.5. Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy in the months ahead, while a score below 50 indicates a shrinking economy. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, said March floods, tariffs, trade tensions and anemic farm income “negatively influenced the economic outlook of bank CEOs.” The survey shows more than half of supply managers reported negative economic effects from flooding. The overall index expanded to 52.9 from 50.2 in February. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.
Orlando International files suit vs. rival
The authority that governs Orlando International Airport has sued the authority for the much smaller Orlando Melbourne International Airport on Florida’s Space Coast, claiming its name is misleading passengers into believing they are going to the land of theme parks instead of the coast. The lawsuit filed this week in federal court asks that the airport in Melbourne stop using the word “Orlando” in its name. The Melbourne airport is located about 70 miles southeast of the Orlando airport, which was the nation’s 11th busiest in 2017. A spokeswoman for the Space Coast airport said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation. Melbourne airport officials have said in the past both airports compete for the same market share.
Google honors J.S. Bach with AI Doodle
Google celebrated composer Johann Sebastian Bach with its first artificial intelligence-powered Doodle. Thursday’s animated Google Doodle showed the composer playing an organ in celebration of his March 21, 1685, birthday under the old Julian calendar. It encouraged users to compose their own two-measure melody. Google said the Doodle uses machine learning to “harmonize the custom melody into Bach’s signature music style.” Bach’s chorales were known for having four voices carrying their own melodic line. To develop the AI Doodle, Google teams created a machine-learning model that was trained on 306 of Bach’s chorale harmonizations. Another team worked to allow machine learning to occur within the web browser instead of on its servers. The Doodle will prompt users who are unsure of how to interact with the animated graphic.
Ford Motor hires Stone as company’s CFO
Ford Motor Co. said its chief financial officer, Bob Shanks, will retire in December, capping a 42-year career at the automaker. The Dearborn, Mich.-based company on Thursday said that Tim Stone will succeed Shanks as chief financial officer. Stone will come to Ford in April and takes over as CFO on June 1. Stone, 52, joins Ford after serving as the CFO of Snap Inc. and a 20-year stint at Amazon.com Inc. “We’re so excited to have Tim join Ford at this incredible time for our company as we strive to become the world’s most trusted company, designing smart vehicles for a smart world,” Ford CEO Jim Hackett said. “He was a key player in the incredible success at Amazon and he understands the principles of fitness and growth as complementary virtues for Ford’s future.”