After The Close - Most stocks rose today on favorable economic news, shaking off yesterday’s market rout. A good earnings report by building supplies mainstay Home Depot (HD - Free Home Depot Stock Report) provided additional support.

Spirits were lifted early on when it was reported that home prices recorded their best gain in years, the number of new homes sold rose sharply, and consumer confidence climbed more than anticipated.

Those positives were complemented by Home Depot’s positive results. The home improvement chain also noted that it would be buying back shares and boosting its dividend. Elsewhere, retailer Macy’s (M) contributed to the upbeat sentiment with a rosy outlook.

Traders also took heart from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s firm stance in testimony before Congress that the central bank’s asset purchasing program was producing tangible results in the economy. The expectation that the bond-buying will continue went over well on Wall Street.

At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 116 points and the NASDAQ added 13 points, a lower percentage than the Dow, where Home Depot’s jump helped the blue-chip average. The NASDAQ lagged most of the session, but perked up a bit in the afternoon with a turnaround in Apple (AAPL) stock, which was helped by speculation about a stock split. Market breadth was broadly positive, with more than two stocks gaining for every one falling on the New York Stock Exchange.

Despite the recovery from Monday’s 216-point selloff on the Dow, its largest this year, there was more of an uncertain feel to today’s trading. That was underscored by steep losses in Europe’s stock markets, which pushed the euro under $1.31. Just a few weeks earlier, the euro was changing hands at $1.36. Rising demand for gold and U.S. government debt also indicated a higher level of nervousness.

The fear stems from the concern that yesterday’s inconclusive elections in Italy will lead back to a period of volatility in Europe. Europe’s sovereign debt woes had bedeviled markets on this side of the Atlantic for more than two years, until a calm took hold in the latter part of 2012.

Tomorrow brings fresh economic data in the form of a report on January’s Durable-Goods Orders, which is expected to show a decline versus December’s gain. Also on tap are earnings releases from oil driller Continental Resources (CLR), H.J. Heinz (HNZ), and retailers Limited Brands (LTD), Target (TGT), and The TJX Companies (TJX). Favorable comparisons are projected, with the exception of Heinz, which is due to be taken over by Berkshire Hathaway (BRKB) anyway.   - Robert Mitkowski  

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


12:35 PM EST - The U.S. stock market got off to a decent start this morning, but has since turned mixed on weakness overseas. At just past noon in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 63 points (0.5%). In the large-cap average, shares of Home Depot (HD - Free Home Depot Stock Report) are moving higher, while banker JP Morgan Chase (JPM - Free JP Morgan Stock Report) shares are slipping. Elsewhere, the broader S&P 500 Index is up just about one point, but the technology-heavy NASDAQ is shedding two points. Market breadth suggests a mildly negative tone to the session, with declining stocks slightly ahead of advancers on the NYSE. The market sectors are mixed, with leadership in the conglomerates and basic materials issues. However, there is weakness in the financial and healthcare stocks.

Technically, the S&P 500 Index broke through the 1,500 level in yesterday’s afternoon selloff. The index could now easily test its 50-day moving average located at about 1,478. If the market heads lower than that, there may be some support at 1,460, which was an area of prior resistance. Further, the 200-day moving average is located at 1,410, which is about 5% below the Index’s current level. The VIX is up about 5% today, to just over 18, which may suggest that traders may be feeling more apprehensive.

Meanwhile, the economic news put out today was generally supportive. The housing market recovery seems to be intact. This morning, the Case-Shiller 20-city Index showed prices increasing 6.8% in December, which was a bit better than expected. The FHFA Housing Price Index also showed improvement during the month. In addition, new home sales came in at 437,000 in January, up from the 378,000 in December, and well ahead of expectations. Finally, the Conference Board’s consumer confidence figures came in at 69.0 for February, up sharply, as well. 

Traders received a mixed batch of earnings releases. Specifically, the aforementioned Home Depot put out a strong report, sending the stock higher. Autodesk (ADSK) stock is up, after the architectural software maker, posted respectable results, but issued cautious guidance. We also heard from Caeser’s Entertainment (CZR). That issue has since recovered, after the casino operator reported weak results. Stocks moving higher include; Silica Holdings (SLCA), Haverty Furniture (HVT), and EBIX (EBIX). Stocks headed lower include: Heidrick & Struggles (HSII), Titan International (TWI), and the Vitamin Shoppe (VSI). - Adam Rosner

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


Stocks to Watch from The Survey Earnings reports, including several from retailers, are in the headlines this morning. Notably, The Home Depot (HDFree Home Depot Stock Report), the world's largest home-improvement retailer and the last Dow-30 component to release quarterly results, delivered better-than-expected January-period financials, and its shares are trading slightly higher in the premarket as a result. Shares of department store operator Macy’s (M) and high-end apparel and accessories retailer Saks (SKS) are also indicating higher openings this morning on earnings news. Investors were not as enthused with quarterly reports from automotive parts supplier AutoZone (AZO) and electronics retailer RadioShack (RSH), however, and both of those stocks are down ahead of the bell.

Elsewhere on the earnings front, shares of restaurant operator Cracker Barrel Old Country Store (CBRL) and commercial printer R.R. Donnelley & Sons (RRD) are up in pre-market trading, while the stock of hotel and casino operator Caesars Entertainment (CZR) is down sharply. – Matthew E. Spencer

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


Before The Bell - As we have opined here for several weeks now, the U.S. equity market appears to be overbought and thus any negative news could prompt, at the very least, a mild selloff. That seemed to be the case yesterday, as the equity indexes sold off sharply on concerns about Italy’s recent election results, which have produced a divided Parliament. The divide in the structure of Italy’s newly elected government has raised concerns about whether the austerity measures now in place for the financially struggling nation are going to continue. 

Thus far today, the world equity indexes are well into negative territory. The major European bourses are deep into the red, with the aforementioned worries about Italy on the minds of the international investment community. Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC-40 indexes are off more than 1.5% as trading is in the second half on the Continent. Overnight, Asia’s main equity indexes, taking their cues from the late-day selloff in the U.S. stock, market finished notably lower.

Meantime, investors looking for some positive news to help offset the negative tidings from Europe will look to a few important reports on the U.S. economy today. Within the next hour, we will receive data on consumer confidence and new home sales for the month of January. These two reports are expected to be closely monitored, as the consumer and the homebuilding industry are important cogs in the nation’s economic output. Any slipup on these two fronts could add to the negative sentiment from the euro zone.

The renewed concerns about financial stability in the euro zone and the looming sequestration deadline this week on Capitol Hill are prompting investors to invoke a “flight-to-safety” investment strategy, with increased demand for both gold and fixed-income securities. In fact, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves in the opposite direction to the price, currently stands at 1.86%--just last week the yield was above 2.00%. The price of gold, which was up more than $20 an ounce yesterday, is already markedly higher today.

Meanwhile, the earnings schedule for today is led by a few notable retailers, including Dow-30 component Home Depot (HD -Free Home Depot Stock Report), Saks (SKS), Autozone (AZO), Big 5 sporting Goods (BGFV), and Radio Shack (RSH). We will also get the latest quarterly results from Papa John’s International (PZZA) and the Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO). The results from the aforementioned retailers, along with the latest data on consumer confidence will give investors a better idea as to how the consumer sector is faring.

With less than a half-hour to go before trading commences on these shores, the equity futures are pointing to a slightly higher opening for the U.S. market. Investors appear to be looking past the negative tidings from the Continent, with an eye on the aforementioned data on the U.S. economy. Our sense is that the economic news, which already includes a positive report on home prices, will need to be good if the bulls are going to keep the bears from flexing their muscles once again over here today.   - William G. Ferguson

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