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After The Close - Wall Street was upbeat today after the European Central Bank president showed resolve about the euro’s future and as somewhat better-than-expected economic data on these shores appeared to boost optimism about tomorrow’s big monthly payroll report.
ECB President Mario Draghi reiterated that he felt the euro was ``irreversible’’, suggesting less of a chance of a breakup that has worried investors on and off for a few years now.  That statement was taken as support for the view that Europe’s central bank will soon buy government bonds from some of the distressed nations in the region, in turn relieving some of the financial strain being felt by certain Mediterranean countries.

Closer to home, the week’s slightly lower-than-anticipated initial jobless claims figure pointed to stability in the labor market and factory orders declined less than feared. Today’s data, together with yesterday’s mildly bullish employment report from Automatic Data Processing (ADP), provided some hope that tomorrow’s government accounting of nonfarm payrolls for August would top expectations to a degree.

At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 81 points and the NASDAQ was 14 points to the good.  Strength was broad-based, as winners outpaced losers by better than a two to one margin on the NYSE.

Among sectors, the consumer cyclical group stood out, with stocks of retailers such as Costco Wholesale (COST) and The Gap (GPS) rising on surprisingly good same-store sales figures. Financial stocks, including Bank of America (BAC - Free Bank of America Stock Report) and Citigroup (C) also did well, as they often do when the news out of Europe is benign. Shares of energy and basic materials companies outperformed, too, supported by a jump in oil prices back above $90 a barrel and rising gold prices. That helped push up the shares of companies, such as oilfield services provider Halliburton (HAL) and miner Barrick Gold (ABX). Moreover, coal stocks, including Peabody Energy (BTU) and Arch Coal (ACI) enjoyed a nice bounce on the feeling that coal is more competitive now that unit natural gas prices have climbed above $3. Technology stocks were the laggards, weighed down by Hewlett-Packard’s (HPQ - Free HP Stock Report) weak prospects.

Next up for investors, as noted, is tomorrow morning’s important 8:30 (Eastern Time) release of the government’s data on job creation for August. Current expectations are for 115,000 positions to have been added and for the unemployment rate to have held steady at 8.1%. Investors can get a review of the data here before the opening bell and how it may affect trading on Friday. - Robert Mitkowski

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

12:25 PM EDT -   The U.S. stock market is putting in a modestly constructive session today. At just past noon in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is showing leadership, rising 89 points (0.7%); the broader S&P 500 Index is ahead by about 10 points (0.7%); and, the technology-heavy NASDAQ, which has been struggling, is now up slightly. The market’s breadth is favorable, overall, with advancing issues mildly ahead of decliners on the NYSE. Most of the market sectors are showing gains, with leadership in the consumer cyclical and financial names. Meanwhile, there is some weakness in the technology sector.

Technically, the S&P 500 Index has been advancing for the past several sessions, as it looks to test its high 52-week high ground at roughly 1,470. It would not be surprising to see some resistance at this level, and a few attempts to move higher may be needed. Much will depend on the quality of the third-quarter earnings season set to start soon. 

In Europe, the major bourses put in a weak session.  Notably, there were a few major interest-rate decisions announced on the Continent. Both the Bank of England and the ECB left their monetary policies unchanged. The euro is strengthening to $1.29, testing the $1.30 mark today.

Meanwhile, traders received some mixed economic reports here at home. Initial jobless claims for the week ended Sept. 29th came in at 367,000, which more or less matched expectations. Weekly continuing jobless claims were unchanged. Notably, traders will be looking ahead to the Government’s non- farm payroll report for the month of September, due out tomorrow. That issuance will no doubt be widely watched, and could easily move the market, one way or the other.  Also this morning traders received the factory orders report for the month of August. Orders dipped 5.2% for the month, which was less of a drop than had been anticipated.

There were a handful of corporate reports released this morning that were worth noting. Kohl’s (KSS) stock is off, after the retailer posted weak monthly sales figures. In the medical area, Nuvasive (NUVA) shares are trading sharply lower after that company issued a weaker-than-expected outlook. In lodging, Marriott International (MAR) stock is flat, even though the hotel operator announced decent quarterly profits. Actively traded issues moving up include: Bank of America (BAC - Free Bank of America Stock Report), Cemex (CX), and Arch Coal (ACI). Stocks moving lower include: Informatica (INFA), Leap (LEAP), and Sarepta Therapeutics (SRPT).  - Adam Rosner

At the time of this article's writing, the author had a position in Arch Coal (ACI).
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Stocks to Watch from The Survey While we are still a few days away from the unofficial start of third-quarter earnings season, a couple of companies have issued profit warnings that clearly did not sit well with investors. Shares of NuVasive (NUVA) are plunging in the premarket, after the company, which develops products for the surgical treatment of spine disorders and injuries, cut its third-quarter revenue guidance. The stock of Informatica (INFA) is also poised for a drastically lower opening this morning, after the leading provider of e-business infrastructure and analytical software said that September-period results would likely come in weaker than expected. Meanwhile…

There is news out of the retail sector, as a number of companies have reported September comparable-store sales this morning. Shares of Target (TGT), The Gap (GPS), and TJX Companies (TJX) are all up modestly in pre-market trading. On the other hand, investors do not appear to be pleased with September comps from Kohl’s (KSS), as that stock is down in the premarket and, to a lesser extent, Macy’s (M). That issue is trading just slightly lower in the premarket. – 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 U.S. stock market put in another indecisive session yesterday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, in particular, moving in and out of the plus column throughout the day, as several crosscurrents affected trading on our shores. By the close, though, the Dow was back in positive territory to the tune of some 12 points, while the Standard and Poor's 500 Index and the NASDAQ ended up better by five and 15 points, respectively.

Overseas, the concerns continue to revolve around Spain, and that country's on again, off again intention to seek a full-scale bailout, as investors apparently hope to see. At this time, that nation is resisting such a move and the austerity that would likely accompany it. That indecision hurt stocks somewhat in the latest session.

On these shores, meantime, a pair of upbeat reports were issued early in the day that helped to solidify the bullish case, and the markets over the course of the day. Specifically, Automatic Data Processing (ADP) indicated that its monthly survey of private-sector payrolls rose more strongly than anticipated in September, a favorable issuance that gives some hope that tomorrow's report on non-farm payrolls, which will be issued by the U.S. Labor Department, will be better than forecast. Then, at 10 AM (EDT) the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) issued a better-than-expected survey number for non-manufacturing activity last month. That was the second better-than-forecast report from the ISM in three days. On Monday, that trade group had released upbeat data on manufacturing activity. Stocks shot up after the latest ISM report. But the bulls could not retain their winning ways for a time as the session evolved.

One depressant during the day was a dour performance from Hewlett-Packard (HPQFree Hewlett-Packard Stock Report). That struggling technology behemoth said that its outlook for fiscal 2013 was becoming much more somber and that as a result it was slashing its forecast range for the year. That  pronouncement pummeled the Dow-30 component to the tune of more than two points, or 12%. The stock's closing price of $14.91, meanwhile, represented a nine-year low for the blue chip. Moreover, the issue is indicating a nominally lower opening this morning.

On the other hand, there was a modicum of strength in the telecom stocks yesterday, with two giant Dow issues, AT&T (TFree AT&T Stock Report) and Verizon Communications (VZFree Verizon Stock Report), posting modest gains for the day. These stocks were buoyed by the better non-manufacturing, or services sector, numbers reported on above. Conversely, shares of Monsanto (MON) fell on signs of lower corn- and cotton-seed sales in the fiscal fourth quarter.

Now, a new day dawns, and the markets overseas are directionless, with the major European bourses flirting with unchanged readings at this hour. However, on our shores, the futures are pushing nicely higher, possibly helped by the recent run of slightly better economic news. Our market, though, may stay a little cautious as the day evolves, as traders try to limit their exposure ahead of tomorrow morning's Labor Department report on non-farm payrolls and the unemployment rate. Current expectations are that 115,000 jobs were added last month, while predictions continue that the jobless rate held steady at a disconcerting 8.1%. – Harvey S. Katz

At the time of this article's writing, the author had positions in T.