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After the Close - The U.S. stock market put in a mixed showing for most of the day, but showed some resilience in the very last hour of trade, as the bargain hunters came moving in. At the end of the session in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up two points; the broader S&P 500 Index was also ahead slightly; and the technology-heavy NASDAQ, which bucked the downtrend most of the day, tacked on 11 points (0.4%). Market breadth was still negative, as declining stocks outnumbered advancers by a small margin on the NYSE.

Many market sectors declined, with sharp losses in the conglomerates and energy issues. Notably, equities in these areas probably took their cue from the commodity markets. Specifically, crude oil fell almost 2% to $88.26 a barrel. Some relative strength was found in the in the basic materials stocks, and this may have reflected higher precious metals prices today. Notably, gold rallied a bit to $1,728 an ounce. Silver prices were also higher. Moreover, the technology sector, as a whole, had a decent day, even though there was some weakness in the semiconductors.

Technically, the S&P 500 Index, which pulled back at around 1,460, has headed lower for a few days consecutively. In fact, the broad index slipped through its 50-day moving average, located at 1,434, but is now right at this level. Trading volumes have picked up, as well, suggesting that the selling was a bit pronounced. It remains to be seen how much consolidation will take place.

Meanwhile, there was little economic news released this morning. So, traders largely concentrated on the third-quarter earnings announcements that have been streaming in with some regularity for a couple of weeks.  In the coal area, Peabody Energy (BTU) saw its stock rise, after the large-cap company posted better-than-expected profits. Many of the coal stocks, which have been badly battered over the past six months, rallied as well. Caterpillar (CAT Free Caterpillar Stock Report) stock finished higher, after the earthmover posted mixed results. In the metals area, Freeport McMoRan (FCX) saw its stock slip, after reporting results that failed to impress Wall Street.

Widely traded issues that moved higher today included Philips Electronics (PHG), SUPERVALU (SVU), and Clearwire (CLWR). Stocks that headed lower included Monster Beverage (MNST), NII Holdings (NIHD), and Amazon.com (AMZN).  - 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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12:15 PM EDT - Stocks wavered above and below the unchanged mark this morning, seemingly looking for direction. With little in terms of economic news until Wednesday (when new home sales for September are to be released), the focus has returned to earnings season, now in full swing. On that front, closely watched Dow component Caterpillar reported September period results today that were above consensus estimates. The stock dipped in early trading, however, as the company cut its full-year revenue and profit outlook, but the shares rallied to a gain of nearly 1% at mid-day as traders appeared to focus more on Caterpillar’s strong showing for the quarter.

Elsewhere, fellow Dow Industrial Microsoft saw its shares fall over 2% this morning, likely reflecting growing concern whether its soon-to-be released Windows 8 operating system will be warmly received by the PC market. Also, shares of General Electric continued to shed value, following its report last Friday that included a cautious outlook. The stock was down 2.85% at mid-day.

Overall, the major U.S. indexes were mixed at the noon hour in New York. The NASDAQ was in positive territory by about a  quarter of one percent,  while the S&P 500 Index and Dow Jones Industrial Average were both just a hair below breakeven.

Over across the pond, we had a rare piece of good news when it was announced that the euro zone’s fiscal deficit was down considerably last year, falling from 6.2% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 to 4.1% in 2011. After a lower opening, the European bourses all made their way into positive territory by mid-day. But the favorable news on the deficit apparently was not enough to ease underlying concerns over the Continent’s ongoing economic and debt-related issues. The FTSE 100, DAX, and CAC 40 ended their sessions with average losses of around half a percentage point.  - Mario Ferro

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 - The third-quarter earnings season continues to pick up with another Dow-30 component reporting today. Heavy machinery manufacturer Caterpillar (CAT - Free Caterpillar Stock Report) reported above-consensus results in the September period and issued a disappointing outlook for the fourth quarter, sending its shares slightly lower in the premarket. In other earnings news, Freeport McMoRan (FCX), which is engaged in the exploration and production of copper, gold, and other commodities, posted third-quarter results that were slightly above consensus expectations. Nevertheless, the stock appears poised to open lower this morning.

Meanwhile, shares of Internet giant Google (GOOG) remain under pressure after the company turned in a disappointing third-quarter earnings performance last week, following a premature filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission detailing its results.  – 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 - Wall Street comes in to work today trying to come back from its worst session in nearly four months. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged over 200 points on Friday after results from several major companies, including General Electric (GE - Free General Electric Stock Report), McDonald’s (MCD - Free McDonald's Stock Report), and Microsoft (MSFT - Free Microsoft Stock Report) failed to live up to their billing. It wasn’t about earnings all the time, either. Disappointing revenues, a function of recessionary conditions in parts of Europe, slower growth in China, and only modest economic expansion in the United States, took their toll on investor sentiment, as well.

The backdrop to begin this morning is somewhat more favorable, at least at the outset. Stocks in Europe and Asia traded slightly higher, with a stable euro indicating no urgent concerns at the moment.

Assuming no international business issues arise, the focus will be very much on the deluge of corporate profits set to be released. The spotlight on earnings will be particularly acute early this week, in the absence of any major economic data until Wednesday, when New Home Sales for September are due to be reported.

The flood of earnings announcements has already gotten started, with Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks (STI) besting analysts’ expectations.

Other companies delivering upbeat earnings news include miner Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold (FCX) and coal producer Peabody Energy (BTU).

Heavy-equipment maker Caterpillar (CAT - Free Caterpillar Stock Report) has also reported better-than-projected earnings per share for the July-to-September quarter.  However, Caterpillar cut its full-year revenue and profit outlook slightly and took a fairly neutral stance on 2013. The company is not looking for a global recession in the coming year, but neither does it expect machine deliveries to end users to show any special strength.

Profit reports will be coming in throughout the day and even after the closing bell.

After hours, Yahoo! (YHOO) and Texas Instruments (TI) are set to release their results. For Yahoo!, one of the early leaders in the tech space, a low double-digit earnings advance is expected, although prospects aren’t as bright for Texas Instruments. The semiconductor and electronic products manufacturer is expected to post lower bottom-line results stemming from a tough operating environment. Any positive surprises from these technology companies would be very well received, since the tech space has been a relatively greater source of concern to investors recently.

Overall, the stock market looks set to bounce back a bit from Friday’s steep losses when trading gets started in about a half-hour, but the Dow and the NASDAQ have given up some of their gains in the futures markets on the more cautious tone from Caterpillar.   - Robert Mitkowski   

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