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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