According to reports on Wednesday, Apple and HBO are about to close a deal. This deal will see HBO’s video streaming service available on Apple TV when it debuts next month. HBO Now, which will be the new name for the video streaming service, is expected to launch in April at the same time as the season premiere of Game of Thrones. This new service will target over ten million customers nationwide that have internet access, but do not subscribe to satellite or cable TV. Currently, both companies have not finalized a monthly cost for this service but they are considering a cost of $15 a month for subscription fees. In 2007, the first version of Apple TV was launched and last spring, 20 million unit sales were made. After the report of the new partnership, there was very little movement in the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) share price which traded at $128.54, down 0.07%, in after-hours trading. Meanwhile, the shares of Time Warner Inc. (NYSE:TWX), which owns HBO, traded at $83.08, down 0.10% in after-hours trading.
For the second consecutive session, U.S. stocks declined on Wednesday pushing the S&P 500 index to its lowest level in the last 2 weeks. This came in response to mixed economic data while the private-sector employment data from the ADP released on Wednesday showed gains in February yet at a slower pace than that in January. According to their report, 212,000 new jobs were added last month which was below January’s gain of 250,000. Investors are now turning their attention to Friday’s official jobs report. Also, the nonmanufacturing data for February from the ISM showed that the index edged up as companies in the U.S. service sector grew at a slightly faster pace and boosted employment. Meanwhile, the Beige Book, which is the U.S. central bank report, showed that the stronger USD and lower oil prices were negatively impacting agriculture, manufacturing and energy exploration in many regions of the country. As a result, the S&P 500 index (SPX) declined 0.4%, or 9.24 points, at 2,098.54 with 9 out of the 10 sectors trading lower. Also on the downside was the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) which declined 0.6%, or 106.41 points, to 18,096.96 while the Nasdaq Composite index (COMP) ended lower by 0.3%, or 12.76 points, at 4,967.14.
You can’t keep the USD down and on Wednesday, the greenback traded at an 11-year high against other major currencies. This came as the euro declined before a European Central Bank meeting where more details of the stimulus program will be announced by President Mario Draghi. The EUR/USD traded at 1.1064, down 0.98% which marked the weakest level since August 2003. Against the British pound, the USD traded higher with GBP/USD at 1.5266, down 0.62%. This came after data showed that the service sector output in Britain expanded at a slower rate than expected in February while still posting solid growth. Meanwhile, the USD/CHF was up 0.15% at 0.9626 while USD/JPY was last at 119.64. Also, the U.S. dollar index rallied to an eleven-year high at 96.02, up 0.6%.
In commodities trading on Thursday, Brent crude oil was flat and it managed to maintain above $60 a barrel. This came as investors brushed aside the inventories data out of the U.S. while shifting their focus on Iran's nuclear program. According to the Tehran ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), no deal has been reached yet regarding Iran’s nuclear program. This caused investor concern regarding a potential increase in the oil supply out of Iran. By 0003 ET, Brent crude oil for April delivery traded at $60.60, up 5 cents. Also on the upside was West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil which traded at $51.75 a barrel, up 22 cents. WTI's spread with global benchmark Brent is now less than $9 a barrel.