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)
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