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%)
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