Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Market Commentary (After Market Close): Stocks Score More Gains

Renewed buying interest has the stock market on pace for its best first quarter performance since 1998.

Robust gains abroad provided a spark that helped stocks extend their prior session advance. No real reaction was made to the latest ADP Employment Change, which indicated that private payrolls increased by 201,000 in March. The consensus had called for an increase of 210,000.

Support continues to be broad based, but telecom has consistently been a top performer during the course of the past few sessions. In fact, the sector is up about 5% week to date. Integrated plays AT&T (T 30.71, +0.66) and Verizon (VZ 38.46, +0.17) have hit new 52-week highs in the process.

Strength in both shares of T and VZ helped the Dow climb to within about 20 points of the two-year high that it set little more than a month ago. Meanwhile, strength among small-cap stocks took the Russell 2000 to its highest level since 2008. The broad-based S&P 500 is back near its one-month high, which has it on pace for a quarterly gain of more than 5%. It encountered some resistance in the 1330 zone, though.

Energy stocks experienced some volatility with President Obama's outline of the U.S. energy policy. Energy stocks had been up about 1%, but gave up all of that gain in the minutes leading up to the speech. A lack of surprises enabled the sector to rebound to a 0.8% gain.

Tech stocks traded with relative weakness all session. Although the sector settled in positive territory, its 0.2% gain paled in comparison with what the broad market scored. Despite that, the tech-rich Nasdaq actually edged out its counterparts. Biotech play Cephalon (CEPH 75.44, +16.69) was a top performer after Valeant Pharma (VRX 50.08, +5.69) announced an all cash takeover offer of $73 per share for the company. Both stocks set 52-week highs.

Even though the end of the first quarter is close at hand, participation remains unimpressive in that share volume failed to break 1 billion on the NYSE again. Part of the reluctance among portfolio managers to rearrange their holdings is owed to caution ahead of the official nonfarm payrolls report, which is due this Friday.

Treasuries settled the day with solid gains. Their advance came in the face of a stronger stock market and lackluster results from an auction of 7-year Notes. The auction drew a bid-to-cover of 2.79, dollar demand of $80.9 billion, and an indirect bidder participation rate of 49.4%.

Advancing Sectors: Telecom (+1.4%), Materials (+1.2%), Consumer Discretionary (+1.1%), Materials (+1.0%), Energy (+0.8%), Financials (+0.7%), Health Care (+0.7%), Consumer Staples (+0.6%), Industrials (+0.4%), Tech (+0.2%) Declining Sectors: (None)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Market Commentary (After Market Close): Appetite for Risk Spurs Stocks Higher

There wasn't really room for positive spin on today's headlines, but stocks still scored strong gains as market participants showed renewed interest in risk.

The tone of trade today was positive from the start. Participants initially took their cues from Europe's major bourses, which all advanced around 1% or more in the face of a decision by Moody's to downgrade about 30 banks in Spain, the likelihood for a bailout of Portugal following the failure of its Parliament to pass austerity measures, and a mixed batch of economic data.

There wasn't much to boast about at home either. Data featured a 0.9% drop in overall durable goods orders for February and a 0.6% fall in orders less less transportation. The consensus among economists polled by had called for increases of 1.1% and 1.8%, respectively.

The latest weekly initial jobless claims count came in at 382,000, which is on par with the 384,000 initial claims that had been broadly expected.

Consumer electronics and home office supplies retailer Best Buy (BBY 30.13, -1.72) issued cautious commentary during its quarterly conference call that overshadowed the company's upside earnings surprise. The stock dropped to a two-year low after it had opened in positive territory.

Even amid lackluster headlines stocks still attracted strong buying interest. The effort even took the S&P 500 past the 1300 zone through secondary resistance above that point to a 10-day high.

Tech stocks, which collectively represent the largest sector by market weight, were a primary source of leadership. The sector climbed 1.6%. Large-cap tech issues like Research In Motion (RIMM 64.09, +1.97), which spiked above its 50-day simple moving average ahead of its earnings report, helped the Nasdaq Composite outperform its counterparts.

Financials lagged for the second straight session. Bank of America (BAC 13.48, -0.17) deepened its one-month low in the wake of yesterday's news that the Fed refused the bank's proposal to distribute capital to shareholders in the second half of 2011. Capital One Financial (COF 51.86, +0.45) was dealt the same decision, but its shares actually staged an impressive rebound. As a group, financials advanced just 0.5%.

Energy stocks were today's weakest performers. They gained just 0.3% after oil prices failed to sustain a move above $106 per barrel to settle essentially unchanged at $105.60 per barrel.

Precious metals came under pressure after pushing higher. Gold prices closed with a 3.1% loss at $1434.90 per ounce after the continuous gold contract traded to a new all-time high at $1448.60 per ounce. May silver ended settled with a 0.6% gain at $37.37 per ounce after it hit $38.18 per ounce, which is its highest level in more than 30 years.

For the third straight session share volume was unimpressive. That should pick up in coming sessions as money managers reposition their portfolios for quarter's end.

Advancing Sectors: Tech (+1.6%), Consumer Discretionary (+1.5%), Health Care (+1.2%), Industrials (+1.0%), Telecom (+0.9%), Consumer Staples (+0.8%), Finance (+0.5%), Materials (+0.4%), Utilities (+0.4%), Energy (+0.3%) Declining Sectors: (None)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Market Commentary (After Market Close): Market Musters Modest Gain

Stocks slipped to modest losses in the early going, but the gradual accumulation of buying interest helped stocks work their way to strong gains. Although the S&P 500 still couldn't push past the 1300 line, the advance offset losses dealt during the prior session.

Morning participants opted to put pressure on stocks. Early efforts were generally broad based, but financials were hit the hardest after the Fed refused a proposal by Bank of America (BAC 13.65, -0.23) to distribute capital to shareholders in the second half of 2011. That headline completely overshadowed an upside earnings surprise and dividend hike from Discover Financial (DFS 23.44, +1.19).

Financials were down more than 1% at their morning low, but slashed that in afternoon trade. The sector settled with a relatively tame loss of 0.3% as materials stocks helped lead buyers back into the market.

Materials stocks were only down slightly in early trade, but swung to a 1.4% gain with help from metals and mining issues, namely Freeport McMoRan (FCX 54.94, +2.66) and Newmont Mining (NEM 54.83, +1.66). DuPont (DD 53.46, -0.21) was one of the few materials sector members that failed to move higher.

Despite the sector's overall strength, it lacks the weight necessary to take the S&P 500 above the 1300 line, which has represented a formidable point of resistance for the past couple of sessions. The S&P 500 had hugged the 1300 line during the last hour of trade, but pulled back a couple of points in the final few minutes. The late slip coincided with headlines that indicated Portugal's Parliament rejected government austerity measures.

In terms of individual performances, Jabil Circuit (JBL 20.99, +2.06) was one of today's top performers. The stock posted its strongest percentage gain in months on high share volume following an upside earnings surprise and upside guidance.

Cree (CREE 42.90, -6.10) was pummeled after the company cut its forecast. A disappointing outlook from Adobe Systems (ADBE 31.68, -1.20) brought about a strong push against its shares.

Economic data was limited to new home sales figures for February. They fell 17% month-over-month to an annualized rate of 250,000, which is a record low and considerably less than consensus for 288,000. The SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (XHB 18.01, +0.12) managed to shake off the news and stage a strong gain.

Tomorrow's economic calendar features weekly jobless claims and the latest durable goods orders data. Tomorrow also brings the latest weekly natural gas inventory report and results from an auction of 10-year TIPS. Advancing Sectors: Materials (+1.4%), Consumer Discretionary (+0.8%), Tech (+0.6%), Industrials (+0.4%), Consumer Staples (+0.3%), Telecom (+0.2%), Energy (+0.2%) Unchanged: Utilities Declining Sectors: Health Care (-0.1%), Financials (-0.3%)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Market Commentary (After Market Close): Lackluster Action Leads to Narrow Loss

The S&P 500 faltered in the face of resistance near the 1300 zone during the early going. That left it to muddle along with a modest loss for the rest of the session as buyers sat on their gains from the prior session.

Although there is still headline risk related to the military action in Libya and the status of damaged nuclear facilities in Japan, the lack of deterioration of relative conditions in those countries has made them less threatening, for the time being, to market participants. That theme helped the major equity averages advance more than 1% yesterday. However, there wasn't any follow through this morning. The lack of early buying interest left stocks to slip into the red, which is where they spent the rest of the session.

Overall selling pressure was rather mild today. Declining share volume outpaced advancing volume by just 3-to-2 -- total share volume on the NYSE barely broke 800 million.

Corporate headlines drove action in a few individual names, but did little for the overall market. Walgreen (WAG 39.21, -2.76) slumped to one of its worst single-session losses in about nine months following in-line earnings results. Meanwhile, Express (EXPR 18.42, +1.02) hit a one-month high following news of its upside earnings surprise. Bristol Myers Squibb (BMY 26.29, +0.29) initially bounced to a one-month high in response to news that one of its drugs met a primary endpoint in a Phase III study, but the stock gradually gave back a chunk of its gain.

Renewed pressure against the greenback dropped the Dollar Index to a new 52-week intraday low, but the buck battled back for a flat finish.

No economic data of consequence was out today. Tomorrow brings the latest monthly new home sales figures, though. Also on tomorrow's agenda are weekly crude oil inventories and a speech from Fed Chairman Bernanke.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Market Commentary (After Market Close): Stocks Put on Strong Performance

A strong favor for stocks today sent the major equity averages up to impressive gains. The advance has culminated in the Dow's best three-session performance since September.

Although an escalation of military engagement in Libya sent oil prices up more than 1% to close pit trade above $102 per barrel, news that Japan has made progress in its efforts to restore damaged nuclear facilities helped quell concerns about a potential meltdown. That helped both foreign markets and U.S. equity averages add to the gains that they staged late last week.

Despite the broad market's recent momentum, the S&P 500 struggled to extend its climb above the 1300 line. Meanwhile, the Dow worked its way to a new weekly high. That feat is owed to three straight advances, which have collectively made for a gain of more than 3%.

Dow component Caterpillar (CAT 107.59, +2.53) was a leader among blue chips as its shares set a record high, but AT&T (T 28.26, +0.32) led morning headlines with news that it will acquire T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom in a $39 billion deal. The news won shares of T an upgrade from analysts at Citigroup. Shares of Sprint (S 4.37, -0.68) were shunned in response to the news.

The latest quarterly report from Tiffany & Co. (TIF 60.22, +2.93) made the stock a top performer. The company's news release featured an upside earnings surprise and upside guidance, which included consideration for the possibility of softer demand from Japan in the wake of the devastating earthquakes that stuck more than a week ago.

Supply and shipment concerns related to the wreckage in Japan had exacerbated recent weakness in semiconductor stocks during recent weeks, but the group rallied this session. Specifically, the 1.9% scored by the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index was its strongest single-session move in two weeks. Semiconductor stocks and large-cap tech helped lead the Nasdaq Composite this session.

News that Citigroup (C 4.44, -0.06) shares will undergo a reverse 10-for-1 stock split overshadowed the company's intention to reinstate its $0.01 quarterly dividend. Disappointment over the reverse split put pressure on the stock. That left shares of C to lag for the entire session, along with many other financials. The Financial Select SPDR ETF (XLF 16.34, +0.07) settled only modestly higher.

Favor for risk led to renewed selling against the greenback. In turn, the Dollar Index dropped to its lowest level since late 2009.

Treasuries were also clipped. They weren't helped by news that the Treasury will add to supply as it begins to wind down its $142 billion Mortgage-Backed Securities Portfolio this month.

The only item on the economic calendar was February existing home sales figures, which reflected annualized sales of 4.88 million. The consensus among economists polled by had been pegged at an annualized rate of 5.05 million.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Market Commentary (After Market Close): Stocks Overcome Early Slip to Score Another Gain

After digesting the latest dose of data the major equity averages brushed aside some fainthearted selling to extend their climb to new two-year highs. Natural resource plays led the move for the second straight session.

There was little surprise to the initial jobless claims tally for the week ended February 12. Initial claims increased from 385,000 in the prior week to 410,000, which is in stride with the 408,000 initial claims that had been expected, on average, among economists polled by Continuing claims were essentially unchanged at 3.91 million.

Consumer prices for January featured a 0.4% increase in the headline number and a 0.2% increase in the core number. The consensus among economists polled by had called for a 0.3% increase in total CPI and a 0.1% increase in core CPI. Prior month increases were 0.4% and 0.1%, respectively for total and core consumer prices.

The Philadelphia Fed Survey for February surged to a seven-year high of 35.9. Economists had generally expected a reading of only 21.0 after it came in at 19.3 in the prior month.

Leading Indicators for January increased by just 0.1%, which is shy of the 0.3% increase that had been widely anticipated. Indicators for December were downwardly revised to reflect a 0.8% increase.

Data did little to provide direction to morning participants, who were initially inclined to sell. It became clear, though, that there was little conviction behind the selling as stocks gradually turned modest losses into modest gains. The move reflected the broad market's bullish bias, which has helped stocks gain 10 times in the 13 sessions traded so far this month.

Materials stocks (+0.9%) and energy stocks (+0.8%) were leaders in the latest move. The two sectors also outperformed in the prior session and are now up 2.0% and 3.1% week to date, respectively.

There wasn't much news out of the materials sector, but energy plays Apache (APA 120.62, +0.11) and Pride International (PDE 40.55, +0.02) settled near the neutral line after the pair had posted quarterly results this morning. Williams Companies (WMB 30.08, +2.32) was a standout in the space after it announced better-than-expected earnings, an increased dividend, and plans to separate into two stand-alone publicly traded companies.

Semiconductors also made strong gains. NVIDIA (NVDA 25.68, +2.30) led the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index to a 1.4% gain following its latest quarterly report and forecast.

Financials failed to follow the broader market's lead this session. Instead, the sector fell to a 0.1% loss after it failed to push into positive territory on only on a few occasions. Regional banks (-1.3%) and diversified banks (-1.1%) weighed on the sector.

Advancing Sectors: Materials (+0.9%), Energy (+0.8%), Consumer Staples (+0.7%), Telecom (+0.3%), Utilities (+0.3%), Health Care (+0.3%), Tech (+0.2%), Industrials (+0.2%), Consumer Discretionary (+0.1%) Declining Sectors: Financial (-0.1%)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Market Commentary (After Market Close): S&P 500 Struggle At 1300

The Dow and S&P 500 had a lackluster finish that came after they had wavered near key technical levels, but the Nasdaq managed to score a solid gain following a couple of exceptional quarterly announcements.

Netflix (NFLX 210.87, +27.84) and Qualcomm (QCOM 54.90, +3.04) helped the Nasdaq Composite lock in a nice lead over its counterparts for the entire session. The two stocks were distinguished by their bottom line beats and upside forecasts. Shortly before the closing bell Microsoft (MSFT 28.87, +0.09) posted an upside earnings surprise that pushed the Nasdaq to a session high, but the move was sold into the final minutes of the session.

The surprise announcement from MSFT also helped the S&P 500 clear 1300 and the Dow eclipse 12,000, but neither could hold the move. Both settled slightly below their psychologically significant lines.

Broad market participants were generally uninspired by stronger-than-expected earnings from Dow components Caterpillar (CAT 96.63, +0.88), AT&T (T 28.13, -0.60), and Procter & Gamble (PG 64.18, -1.93), as well as upside surprises from the likes of Eli Lilly (LLY 35.47, +0.52) and Colgate-Palmolive (CL 77.39, -2.61). The primary reason is that simply beating the consensus earnings estimate has become expected, especially in light of the stock market's climb in the past couple of months to two-year highs.

Murphy Oil (MUR 65.74, -7.49) failed to meet the consensus earnings estimate. Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY 26.35, +0.42) also came short of the call, but compounded the offense with downside guidance. Starbucks (SBUX 33.03, -0.04) beat expectations, but issued downside guidance.

Data today was mixed. Durable goods orders for December dropped 2.5% in an ugly follow up to the 0.1% decline that was recorded in the prior month. The sharp decline in December came as a surprise considering that the consensus called for a 1.5% increase. Excluding transportation, durable goods orders increased 0.5%, but that still is not as strong as the 0.6% increase that had been expected among economists polled by or the 4.5% spike that had been recorded for the prior month.

The latest initial jobless claims tally for the week ended January 22 came in at a three-month high of 454,000, which is well above the 410,000 claims that had been widely expected. Continuing claims came in at 3.99 million, up from 3.90 million.

Pending home sales proved to be a much more positive surprise. They climbed 2.0% when a 0.5% decline had been expected.

The Dollar Index was down fractionally at the end of the trading day. Most of its slip was due to a narrow gain by the euro, although the yen fell a sharp 0.9% to 82.90 yen per dollar after S&P's downgrade of Japan's debt to AA- from AA.

Treasuries had a quiet session that ended with muted gains. An auction of 7-year Notes attracted a bid-to-cover of 2.85, dollar demand of $82.7 billion, and an indirect bidder participation rate of 52.1%.

Advancing Sectors: Financials (+0.9%), Consumer Discretionary (+0.8%), Tech (+0.5%), Industrials (+0.5%), Utilities (+0.4%), Health Care (+0.3%) Declining Sectors: Energy (-0.5%), Materials (-0.7%), Consumer Staples (-0.9%), Telecom (-0.9%)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Market Commentary (After Market Close): Dow Ascends to Two-Year High Near 12,000

Large-cap tech rallied after it had lagged last week. That helped the Nasdaq outperform, but it was the Dow that set a new two-year high as it advanced more than 100 points to settle just 20 points shy of the 12,000 mark.

Tech stocks were a bit mixed in early trade, but buying quickly picked up after the sector started to run. Tech stocks settled with a 1.6% gain.

NVIDIA (NVDA 24.73, +2.51) was a leader among tech issues following positive mention in the financial press over the weekend. Heavyweight tech issues Microsoft (MSFT 28.38, +0.36), Intel (INTC 21.24, +0.42), and Cisco (CSCO 21.17, +0.44) complemented its strength and, in turn, drove both the Nasdaq Composite and Nasdaq 100 to their best percentage gains in three weeks. IBM (IBM 159.63, +4.13) also caught a big bid, which took the stock to a new record high and helped drive the Dow to within just 20 points of the 12,000 line for the first time since June 2008.

J.C. Penney (JCP 32.52, +2.18) shares made their sharpest single-session spike in three months after the retailer said that it will take strategic actions to maximize growth and profitability. The stock settled comfortably above its 50-day moving average for the first time in two weeks. The rest of the retail space failed to follow, though; they advanced just 0.3%.

Market participants were generally unimpressed by the latest round of earnings, which featured a bottom line beat by Halliburton (HAL 39.55, +0.36) and in-line results from McDonald's (MCD 75.38, +0.37). Both were relative laggards.

Financials trailed for the entire day. The sector's 0.1% loss was largely owed to weakness in regional bank shares, which collectively shed 1.3%. Health care playes were also weak; they fell to a fractional loss due to weakness in managed care plays, which dropped 1.0%.

Advancing Sectors: Tech (+1.6%), Materials (+1.0%), Industrials (+1.0%), Telecom (+0.6%), Consumer Discretionary (+0.6%), Utilities (+0.5%), Consumer Staples (+0.4%), Energy (+0.2%) Unchanged: Health Care Declining Sectors: Financials (-0.1%)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

US Market Commentary (After Market Close): Flat Finish

Strength in the dollar overshadowed another batch of better-than-expected earnings this morning. While that left stocks to start the session in the red, the broader market was able to recover to the neutral line, where it was mired amid resistance.

The dollar rebounded solidly from its loss in the prior session, such that the Dollar Index settled 0.7% higher today. That move came in the face of a stronger British pound, which was helped by news that the United Kingdom's economic output for the third quarter hit a stronger-than-expected clip of 0.8%. Moreover, Standard & Poor's affirmed the UK's AAA credit rating.

With the dollar a primary catalyst for trade, the broader market was uninspired by the latest round of quarterly reports. The most recent lot included upside earnings surprises from Amgen (AMGN 57.26, -0.69), Biogen Idec (BIIB 59.99, +0.09), Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY 26.86, -0.30), Johnson Controls (JCI 34.49, -0.25), and Texas Instruments (TXN 28.88, -0.10). Coach (COH 49.78, +5.30), National-Oilwell Varco (NOV 52.03, +4.06), and Ford Motor (F 14.36, +0.21) each posted better-than-expected earnings, too, but their shares set fresh 52-week highs.

IBM (IBM 140.67, +0.83) already reported its results for the latest quarter, but managed to attract support with its announcement that its board has authorized $10.0 billion for share repurchases.

Though moderate, a broadly positive response followed the midmorning release of the Consumer Confidence Index for October. It improved to 50.2 from 48.5, but had only been expected to improve to 49.0, according to economists polled by

Despite positive data and generally upbeat corporate reports, the stock market never successfully staged an advance. Sellers kept the S&P 500 out of positive territory by standing ready at the neutral line.

Treasuries also had an unimpressive session. The benchmark 10-year Note fell 21 ticks so that its yield climbed to 2.64%. The 30-year Bond fell more than a full point so that its yield returned to the 4.00% mark.

Similar to the prior session, Treasuries extended their losses in the wake of the latest Note auction. Today's auction featured $35 billion of 2-year Notes that drew a bid-to-cover ratio of 3.43 on dollar demand of $120.1 billion and an indirect bidder participation rate of 40.0%. The 2-year Note ended the day down a couple of ticks so that its yield was last quoted at 0.39%.

Advancing Sectors: Consumer Discretionary (+0.4%), Energy (+0.3%), Tech (+0.1%), Telecom (+0.1%), Financials (+0.1%), Declining Sectors: Consumer Staples (-0.4%), Health Care (-0.3%), Industrials (-0.3%), Materials (-0.2%), Utilities (-0.2%)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

US Market Commentary (After Market Close): Tone Turns Positive, but Resistance Looms

Broad buying in light volume gave stocks strong gains, but the effort failed to take stocks through a key resistance level.

Stocks sported robust gains for the entire session. Though they finished with their best percentage gain in two weeks, strength actually faded into the close. The late drift came after the S&P 500 failed to penetrate the 1100 line. It did manage to close firmly above its 50-day moving average of 1088, however.

The advance was helped along by news that BHP Billiton (BHP 70.21, -1.73) proposed to acquire Potash (POT 143.17, +31.02) for $130 per share. Potash refused the offer, but news of such a large-scale takeover attempt provided participants with a tacit sign of improved sentiment and prospects across the corporate landscape, especially in the agricultural and basic materials space. In turn, materials stocks led the broader market for the entire session and finished a 2.3% gain.

Retailers were also strong. As a group retailers climbed 1.8%. Discount retail giant and Dow component Wal-Mart (WMT 51.02, +0.61) was a solid performer on the back of in-line earnings and an improved forecast.

Home improvement retailer and fellow Dow component Home Depot (HD 28.31, +0.93) had a more positive influence over retailers. It posted better-than-expected earnings for the latest quarter, but issued a rather mixed forecast. A smaller-than-expected increase in housing starts during July didn’t do anything to derail the stock this session.

Housing starts for July increased 1.7% month-over-month to an annualized rate of 546,000 units, which is less than the rate of 555,000 units that had been widely anticipated. Building permits for July fell 3.1% month-over-month to an annualized rate of 565,000, which is below the rate of 573,000 that had been expected.

As for other data, the Producer Price Index for July increased 0.2%, as expected. Excluding food and energy, producer prices for July increased 0.3% month-over-month, but a 0.1% increase had been expected.

Lastly, industrial production increased 1.0% in July. It had been to rise by 0.6%.

Though there was plenty of important data for participants to digest this session, it did not have much of a meaningful impact on trade. That contrasts sharply with action of previous weeks, when data had been a primary catalyst behind trade and corporate announcements, including earnings, were of secondary concern.

Consistent with recent weeks, trading volume remains unimpressive. More directly, share volume on the NYSE failed to break 1 billion shares for the third straight session, keeping with the 15-session average of just 984 million shares.

Advancing Sectors: Materials (+2.3%), Industrials (+1.8%), Energy (+1.5%), Consumer Discretionary (+1.5%), Health Care (+1.3%), Telecom (+1.2%), Tech (+1.1%), Utilities (+0.9%), Consumer Staples (+0.8%), Financials (+0.7%)Declining Sectors: (None)