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After the Close -  The major U.S. equity indexes, which were in the red from the start today on international concerns (more below), finished the latest session moderately lower, with the most notable setback in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (down 36 points). In a light volume day—likely the product of little news on the economic or earnings fronts today—declining issues outnumbered advancers on both the Big Board and the NASDAQ—but by just modest margins.

As noted, most of today’s action-or lack thereof—was driven by a few disconcerting reports from overseas. At the forefront, were disappointing economic data from Asia. Specifically, China’s latest Consumer Price Index reading, which eased to 2.2%, suggests that the world’s second-largest economy is slowing. We also learned overnight that Japan’s core machinery orders fell nearly 15% sequentially last month. This data, combined with Friday’s dour report on the U.S. labor market, raised concerns about the health of the global economy. Meanwhile, the yield on Spain’s 10-year government note moved above 7% again today, as investors continue to question the strength of last week’s agreement at the European Union Summit. The major Asian indexes finished sharply lower, while the European bourses suffered similar percentage declines to our equity indexes.

Turning back to our shores, other than a spate of merger and acquisition news, there was not a lot for domestic traders to get excited about. As noted, it was a quiet day on both the economic and earnings fronts. However, investors are sure to keep a close eye on the latest quarterly results from Dow-30 component Alcoa (AA Free Alcoa Stock Report), which were scheduled to be released shortly after the conclusion of trading today. The performance of the aluminum giant is often viewed as a gauge to how the global economy is faring.

From a sector perspective, there was not much to like, with nearly all of the major groups in the red. The biggest laggards were the basic materials and energy sectors. Neither decline was surprising given the aforementioned weak global economic news. Conversely, the defensive-minded healthcare sector finished in positive territory, with the stocks of the managed healthcare providers performing the best.

The buying of healthcare stocks, which are viewed as defensive-type holdings, is not surprising, as worries about the global economy have unnerved investors in recent days. Likewise, the demand for fixed-income securities also remains high, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury falling once again in the latest session. The smaller, but better assured returns are bonds are greatly desired by those looking to adhere to a “flight-to-quality” strategy—which appears to be in vogue on Wall Street these days.  - William G. Ferguson
  

At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.    

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12:15 PM ET - The U.S. stock market is weakening as the noon hour passes in New York. Some of the move lower may reflect a poor showing in the international arena. In Asia, the markets were off overnight. Notably those markets just recently digested the employment report that was released in the United States on Friday. Further, some discouraging economic data released in the region, and discouraging remarks from China’s Premier, probably did not help matters. There were large losses on the Hang Seng and on Japan’s Nikkei.

In Europe, the markets are just finishing up a choppy session, with modest losses on most of the major bourses. News that yields on Spain’s debt are once again heading higher is probably doing little to instill a sense of confidence in the situation there. 

Meanwhile, back in the United States, our markets do not seem able to reverse course. At just past noon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is off 74 points (-0.6%); the S&P 500 Index is lower by seven points (-0.5%); and the NASDAQ is down 16 points (-0.5%) The tone is somewhat negative, with declining issues ahead of advancers on the NYSE. Considerable weakness can be seen in the energy and basic materials sectors, possibly on concerns about a slowdown in global demand. Conversely, the healthcare group is doing well, possibly on acquisition-related news and buying of perceived defensive issues.

Technically, the S&P 500 Index has made some rally attempts over the past month or so, and it has been a volatile process, so far. Specifically, the Index has been pulling back for the past few days. However, trading volumes have been light, suggesting the situation is not too serious yet. If the move lower continues, we may find some support at the 50-day moving average located at around 1,340.

There was little important economic news released in the United States today, and tomorrow will also be a bit light in that regard. However, things heat up on Wednesday, when we receive reports on the nation’s trade balance, wholesale inventories, and the widely-watched minutes from the FOMC’s June meeting.

Trades will, no doubt, be watching the upcoming earnings reports, beginning with Dow component Alcoa (AA - Free Alcoa Stock Report) after the closing bell today. Alcoa is a bellwether metals supplier and this report has broad implications. Elsewhere, there has been some merger and acquisition news released today. WellPoint (WLP) has agreed to buy Amerigroup (AGP). Also, FX Alliance (FX) stock is up sharply after agreeing to merge with Thomson Reuters (TRI).   - Adam Rosner

At the time of this article’s writing, the author had a position in Alcoa (AA). 

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Stocks to Watch from The Survey – Shares of Wellpoint Inc. (WLP) ticked up in early morning trading on news that the health-benefits provider had agreed to acquire managed-care company Amerigroup Corp.

Meanwhile, shares of Boeing Co. (BA - Free Boeing Stock Report) are expected to trade actively in this morning session, as Air Lease Corp. recently announced that it placed an order worth $7.2 billion with the aircraft maker for 60 of the 737 MAX 8 and 15 of the 737 MAX 9 airplanes.

In earnings news, aluminum producer Alcoa (AA - Free Alcoa Stock Report) is set to kick off earnings season after the market closes today with its second-quarter earnings report. The stock is indicated slightly lower this morning in the pre-market, as investors expect the company to register a sharp decline in earnings compared to last year’s June quarter. – Kathryn M. Drew

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.

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Before The Bell - It was an undistinguished employment report for June issued by the government on Friday and a similarly disquieting reaction to that report on Wall Street that put the bulls on their heels and ended the holiday shortened week on a decided down note. Specifically, the U.S. Labor Department reported that the nation added just 80,000 jobs last month, or some 20,000 less than forecast and only about 40% of the generally accepted 200,000 new non-farm payrolls per month that are needed to notably push down the very high unemployment rate. And speaking of that metric, it remained at an elevated 8.2% for the month, which was as expected.

And armed with these dour numbers, the bears went to work, at one time during the day pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average down nearly 200 points. And even with some very late bargain hunting, that 30-stock composite still shed 124 points on the day, while the NASDAQ chipped in with a 39-point loss. The Standard and Poor's 500 Index dropped 13 points, while the S&P Mid-Cap 400 Index lost 11 points, a material setback, and the small-cap Russell 2000 was in the red to the tune of 10 points.

Now, a new week dawns, and we are already getting some disappointing news out of Asia, where there is fresh evidence that the global economy is continuing to slow. One item of note is that inflation in China is cooling. Although that might be seen as good news in some respects, it may also be viewed as a further indication that economic growth in the world's second largest economy is now slowing. Adding to this general sense of unease is the fact that yields on Spain's debt have again topped 7%--a level that is generally believed to be unsustainable. This surge in bond yields comes before a meeting by euro-zone finance ministers later in the day. Meanwhile, European equities were mostly lower this morning, for a fourth straight session, on weak economic tidings across the Continent as well.

And over here, our equity futures are still in the red, albeit now just modestly so, presaging a nominally lower opening to the trading day and week when the bulls and the bears get down to business in about a half hour from now. As to our own economic situation, it, too, is none too rosy, in light of the tepid employment outlook and a pair of recently weaker surveys on manufacturing activity and non-manufacturing output. Meantime, looking ahead to this week, there are no releases of note on the economy today or tomorrow. However, the business beat does start to pick up on Wednesday when we will get the monthly issuance on the international trade deficit. A somewhat narrower shortfall is likely there, owing to an earlier decline in oil prices. On the other hand, crude prices are now picking up, and are nearing the $85-a-barrel level in New York so far today. Then, Thursday will bring the weekly jobless claims report and Friday will see data on producer prices and consumer sentiment.

In addition, second-quarter earnings season kicks off this week, with Dow-30 component  and aluminum maker Alcoa (AAFree Alcoa Stock Report) getting the ball rolling after the stock market closes this afternoon. That initial report will be followed on Friday by profit statements from fellow blue chip and financial services giant JPMorgan Chase (JPMFree JPMorgan Stock Report) and banking stalwart Wells Fargo (WFC). The earnings beat really picks up next week, though. – Harvey S. Katz

At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.