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After the Close - Similar to what took place on Wall Street yesterday, investors appeared unwilling to make significant moves prior to the conclusion of the Federal Reserve’s two-day monetary policy meeting, which kicked off earlier today. The investment community is waiting to see what the lead bank’s next move, or lack thereof, will be with regards to the recent sluggish performance of the domestic economy. For most of the latest session, the major U.S. equity indexes did not stray too far from the neutral line in one of the slowest trading days thus far in 2012. However, some late-day selling did take place in a market that moved considerably higher at the end of last week.

By the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the weak link in the chain, the NASDAQ, and the S&P 500 Index were in negative territory. The tech-heavy NASDAQ, which was up for most of the session on the shoulders of Apple (AAPL) stock’s nice gain and a few other advances in the technology space (see below), could not hold the gains to the finish line. The selling was somewhat more pronounced in the small- and mid-cap areas, as reflected by the setbacks in the Russell 2000 and, particularly, the S&P Mid-Cap 400 Index, which fell more than six points, or 0.7%. Declining issues outpaced advancers on both the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ.

From a sector perspective, nearly all of the top-10 groups were in negative territory, with notable weakness in the consumer cyclical, basic materials, and utilities stocks. Conversely, technology and telecommunications fared relatively well today, helped by shares of Cirrus Logic (CRUS), which soared on good quarterly results and a strong outlook. The stock of fellow technology company Avid Technology (AVID) also moved markedly higher, despite the company reporting a deeper-than-expected loss—investors elected to focus more on the strong top line. Other notable gainers included U.S. Steel (X), Accretive Health (AH), and Goodyear Tire & Rubber (GT). Meantime, it was not a good day for those holding positions in Dendreon (DNDN), Coach (COH), Tower Group (TWGP), Advent Software (ADVS), and Humana (HUM).

Following a quiet day to start the week, the economic news picked up today, with a few important reports issued this morning. Before the market opened, we received mixed data on personal income and spending. On the positive side, personal income had stepped up somewhat in June, rising by a solid 0.5%. However, the same report showed that consumption expenditures were much less upbeat, with that metric showing no change in June, following consecutive gains of 0.8%, 0.3%, and 0.2%, respectively in February, March, and April. Then at 10:00 A.M. (EDT), the U.S. economy received a rare jolt of good news when the Conference Board noted that its July survey on consumer confidence had actually gained nicely, rising from an upwardly revised June reading of 62.7 to a July result of 65.9. Still, these reports did not give the market much of a boost, as investors appeared to be locked in on hearing what the Federal Reserve has in store before making any significant moves in either direction. Thus…

It is our sense that tomorrow will be a big day for the market, especially in the second half when the Fed’s latest movement is made public. We will also get data on manufacturing activity for the month of July; the prior month’s data on manufacturing was weak—so investors are sure to keep close tabs on that report, along with the latest data on vehicle sales and private-sector payroll creation. Later on in the week, the much-anticipated Labor Department report on employment and unemployment will be issued.  - 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 got off to mixed start this morning, and has been struggling to put together a constructive session. At just past noon in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 35 points (-0.3%); the S&P 500 Index is off four points ( 0.3%); and the NASDAQ, which had been showing some strength, is also now lower by three points. Market breadth is mixed, as advancing stocks are roughly even with decliners on the NYSE. The market sectors are directionless, as well. There is leadership in the technology and healthcare areas, with weakness in some of the consumer and the financial names.

Technically, the S&P 500 Index, after a big move up a couple of days ago, seems to be taking a breather. Notably, while the market was lower yesterday, trading volumes were light, and traders did not rush to take profits, but instead have shown some commitment to the rally.

It is a busy day for economic news, and the results have been positive. Personal income rose 0.5% in June, which was an improvement over last month’s figure and a bit better than the consensus view. However, personal spending levels were unchanged. In housing, the Case-Schiller 20 City Index, showed home prices slipping 0.7% in May, but this was actually a better reading than many had anticipated. We also got a positive reading on the Chicago PMI, which came in at 53.7 for the month of July, just ahead of expectations. Further, the consumer seems to be feeling better, as the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index showed some surprising improvement in July.

Meanwhile, the FOMC has started its two day meeting, and an interest-rate decision is expected to be released tomorrow at 2:15 PM (EDT). This will be key report, as many are looking for added liquidity and stimulus measures.

Finally, there were numerous corporate reports released today, as well. In the Dow, we received a solid report from drug giant Pfizer (PFE - Free Pfizer Stock Report), and that stock is up nicely on the news. In the technology sector, we heard from Seagate (STX). That stock is trading lower after the disk drive maker posted a disappointing profit figure. However, Cirrus Logic (CRUS) is seeing its stock jump on a good release and upbeat guidance. Elsewhere, Coach (COH) and bio-tech company Dendreon (DNDN) are big losers, while struggling mobile phone maker Nokia (NOK) and US Steel (X) are big gainers.   - Adam Rosner

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

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Stocks to Watch from The Survey After a relatively subdued day of earnings yesterday, investors have their hands full today, as a host of companies delivered surprising results last night and this morning. There were a few operators that Wall Street appeared particularly disappointed with, such as handbag and leather goods retailer Coach (COH), which delivered weaker-than-expected sales, most notably in North America. The stock is trading sharply lower in the premarket. Shares of Dendreon (DNDN) are also selling off in early morning trading, after the biotech company posted another quarterly loss due to slow sales of PROVENGE, its prostate-cancer treatment. Dendreon also announced plans to slash roughly 40% of its workforce. Additionally, shares of hard disk drive manufacturer Seagate Technology (STX), health insurer Humana (HUM), semiconductor company PMC-Sierra (PMCS), agricultural products processing giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), and building products manufacturer Louisiana-Pacific (LPX) are all indicating sharply lower openings this morning.

It was not all bad news, however, as investors seemed pleased with second-quarter results from drug developer and Dow-30 component Pfizer (PFEFree Pfizer Stock Report). That stock is trading modestly higher in the premarket. Shares of healthcare benefits provider Aetna (AET), rubber and tire producer Goodyear (GT), and U.S. Steel (X), are all up in pre-market trading, as well. – Matthew E. Spencer

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 - The bulls rested yesterday after the heroics of late last week, as the major equity averages generally marked time, with the bulls and the bears awaiting today's start of the Federal Reserve's two-day FOMC meeting, a confab that could well produce a third round of quantitative easing, as the nation's economic struggles likely will encourage the central bank to make yet more effort at curative monetary action.

All told, on a day with no major news releases, the Dow Jones Industrial Average eased a mere three points, following gains of more than 200 points in that index during each of the prior two sessions. The NASDAQ shed 12 points and the S&P 500 Index was off by less than a point. If there was any bias yesterday, it was nominally to the downside. The only movers of note were companies affected either by acquisitions, such as Shaw Group (SHAW), an engineering and construction company, which has agreed to be acquired, and saw its shares soar, and Diebold (DBD), the ATM maker, which lowered its full-year earnings guidance, causing that stock to tumble in the latest session. Facebook (FB), a prime casualty on Friday, lost another two percent yesterday on further fallout from its recent issuance of dour quarterly results.

Meanwhile, the euro zone was largely quiet yesterday, as hopes continue in place that recent comments by the European Central Bank President, Mario Draghi, will lead to fewer questions about the euro zone's viability in its present form. There is still a good deal for the key members of that federation to do in order to keep the European Union intact, but at least there is some sense of urgency appearing among the major members of the EU.

Over here, yesterday's pause on the economic calendar will prove short lived, as we have already had the government's monthly issuance on personal income and personal consumption expenditures, with these metrics showing a solid increase and no change, respectively. Overall, though, there were no big surprises in the surveys. Then, later this morning, we will get the monthly reading on consumer confidence from the Conference Board, and a look at manufacturing activity in the greater Chicago area. The economic beat picks up further tomorrow with data on construction spending, auto sales, and manufacturing across the nation. Then, of course, there is the result of the FOMC meeting, with that event concluding early in the afternoon. Moreover, on Thursday, the rapid release of data continues, with reports on initial jobless claims and factory orders. Finally, this busy week concludes with the key reports of the month, when the Labor Department issues its surveys on employment and unemployment. Some 90 minutes later, there is the release of the monthly report on non-manufacturing activity.

Thus, it promises to be a very busy week, with not only these issuances but also the continued flow of second-quarter earnings releases to decipher. Ahead of all this, the U.S. equity futures are pointing to a modestly firmer opening in about a half hour from now.     

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