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After the Close - Trading in stocks turned more bullish in the afternoon, allowing the Dow Jones Industrial Average to finish with a gain of nearly 20 points. Meanwhile, the NASDAQ was strong for most of the session, and finished 28 points higher, or significantly better than the Dow on a percentage basis. As for the broader market, advancers topped decliners handily on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Dow was in the red for much of the morning, after one of its component companies, Caterpillar (CAT Free Caterpillar Stock Report), posted disappointing results and lowered expectations. Normally, that is a recipe for a selloff, but Caterpillar shares eventually turned higher, possibly on word from its CEO that the mining business had bottomed out. That remains to be seen, of course, given that ore prices have been weak on the view that the global economy is slowing.

Investors also shrugged off news that existing home sales for March dipped slightly from February, whereas a slim rise had been predicted. The thinking there was that limited inventory held back results. Many homeowners that might normally be ready to sell have been reluctant to put their homes on the market at what they perceive as low prices. 

Among sectors, energy stocks did well today, helped by results at oilfield services provider Halliburton (HAL) that were better than expected on Wall Street. Halliburton also noted that it would be buying back stock and was seeking a reasonable settlement to its legal issues stemming from the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Elsewhere, technology stocks were among the day’s winners, helped positive sentiment toward Microsoft (MSFT Free Microsoft Stock Report), which last week reported upbeat earnings. There was also some speculation that an activist shareholder had taken a stake in Microsoft.

Tomorrow brings another broad sampling of earnings releases from Corporate America. Companies due to show investors their first-quarter report cards on Tuesday include Amgen (AMGN), Apple (AAPL), AT&T (T Free AT&TStock Report), DuPont (DD - Free DuPont Stock Report), Travelers (TRV - Free Travelers Stock Report), and United Technologies (UTX - Free United Technologies Stock Report). Indications are for a mixed performance from that group. Analysts generally expect profits to be higher at Amgen and AT&T, while flattish results are looked for from Travelers and United Technologies. Meanwhile, lower share profits are projected at Apple and DuPont. 

Also on tap for tomorrow is the March report on new-home sales, which is the companion report to today’s existing-home sales data. Economists estimate a modest rise from February, in line with the view that the recovery in housing is continuing.  - Robert Mitkowski

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

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12:30 PM EDT- The stock market is logging another mixed session today. At just past noon in New York (EDT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the weakest of the major averages, is off 26 points (-0.2%); but, the broader S&P 500 Index is ahead two point (0.1%); and, the NASDAQ is showing leadership, moving up 17 points (0.5%). A mixed tone can be seen by looking at the market’s breadth. Declining stocks are outnumbering advancers by a small a margin on the NYSE.

Many market sectors are in negative territory. There are losses in the conglomerates. The transportation and financial issues are also weak. In contrast, the technology sector is advancing. Also, the energy stocks are higher.

Technically, the S&P 500 Index is trading above its 50-day moving average, located at 1,545, which is likely a favorable indication. Friday’s large move up was accompanied by a surge in volume, which is good to see as it shows some commitment to equities. While the major averages are off their highs, a prolonged and deeper correction from here is not necessarily a sure bet. Investor sentiment is still quite bullish, as the VIX is at just about 15.

Earlier this morning, traders likely took their cue from the overseas markets. Specifically, in Europe, the major bourses were heading higher earlier, possibly helped by news of the re-election of Italy’s President.  However, later on, sentiment in the U.S. turned mixed as some economic data was released. Notably, existing home sales for the month of March came in at 4.92 million units, annualized, which was somewhat weaker than had been widely expected. The Home Builders Trust (XHB) was off sharply on the news, but has recovered partially. Tomorrow, the housing market will be back on center stage, as we will receive the FHFA’s Housing Price Index for February, and the new home sales figures for March.

Meanwhile, the first-quarter earnings reports continue to stream in. Today, we heard from Dow component Caterpillar (CAT - Free Caterpillar Stock Report). Those shares are trading higher, even though the earthmoving equipment giant put out weaker-than-expected figures, and tempered its outlook. In energy, Halliburton (HAL) put out a better-than-anticipated release, and that stock is up quite a bit today. Elsewhere, Power-One (PWER) stock is up sharply after the alternative power company announced that it would be bought by ABB (ABB).   - 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 Earnings reports continue to roll in this morning, albeit at a slower pace than over the past couple of trading days. Today’s most notable announcement comes from heavy equipment manufacturer and Dow-30 component Caterpillar (CATFree Caterpillar Stock Report), which released lackluster first-quarter results and trimmed its outlook. However, investors found enough positive news to bid the stock slightly higher in pre-market trading. Meantime, shares of energy services provider Halliburton (HAL) and toymaker Hasbro (HAS) are also indicating higher openings on earnings news. Conversely, the stock of Check Point Software (CHKP), a provider of Internet security solutions, is lower in the premarket after reporting March-period results.

Elsewhere, shares of Power-One (PWER) are surging ahead of the bell, after the electrical equipment company agreed to be acquired by Switzerland-based ABB Ltd. for $6.35 a share in cash. – 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 - Investors return to the equity market this morning after a turbulent five-day stretch last week that saw the major U.S. equity indexes seesaw back and forth for much of the week, with the swings pronounced at times. When all was said and done, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the NASDAQ Composite, and the broader S&P 500 Index were each down more than 2% for the week. Triggering the selling was some disconcerting news on the global economy and some disappointing quarterly results, particularly at the top line, from some of the blue chip companies, including International Business Machines (IBMFree IBM Stock Report), Intel (INTCFree Intel Stock Report), McDonald’s (MCDFree McDonald’s Stock Report), Bank of America (BACFree BofA Stock Report), and Alcoa (AAFree Alcoa Stock Report).

Our sense is that the new trading week, much like last week, may well be another volatile one for the investment community. Even with last week’s win for the bears, the U.S. equity market is still overextended—the S&P Volatility Index (or VIX) sits at a level that would clearly suggest such—and is thus susceptible to a spate of selling if the news were to disappoint. With the earnings reports likely to bring a mixed bag of results, it could make for some notable swings in the direction of trading over the next five days. This week will bring reports from 10 more Dow-30 companies, as well as the much-anticipated latest quarterly results from technology giant Apple (AAPL). Shares of Apple fell to a 52-week low last week. The hectic earnings week is already off to a shaky start, as Dow-30 component Caterpillar (CATFree Caterpillar Stock Report) reported first-quarter earnings and revenues that fell short of Wall Street's expectations and sharply cut its full-year sales forecast. That said, shares of the giant construction equipment maker are modestly higher in pre-market trading.

Meantime, there will be no shortage of news on the U.S. economy this week either. The housing industry will take center stage over the next few days, with reports due on existing and new home sales. The existing home sales data will be released at 10:00 A.M. (EDT) today. On Wednesday we will get the latest data on durable goods orders, and then on Friday, the much-anticipated initial reading on first-quarter GDP is due.

Overnight, Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped nearly 2% after reports surfaced that the G20 has accepted Japan's bold stimulus package. This news helped to offset growing concerns about the global economic growth outlook. The dollar strengthened against the yen, approaching an exchange rate of 100 yen to the dollar during the latest session.

Meanwhile, the major European bourses are higher as trading enters the second half on the Continent, with notable advances for Italy's MIB and Spain's IBEX Indexes. Although there was no major economic news from the euro zone, investors did learn that after four unsuccessful attempts to elect a new president, Italy’s Giorgio Napolitano has been reelected to an unprecedented second term. In addition, Pier Luigi Bersani of the center-left has resigned from his post as party leader. Also this morning, a number of European Central Bank (ECB) members have commented on low interest rates, suggesting the increased likelihood of an ECB rate cut should the regional economy continue to worsen. All in all, the stimulus news from Japan and the growing possibility of a rate cut for the euro zone—two events that have historically been viewed favorably by market participants—are pushing international equities higher.

Thus, with less than an hour to go before the start of trading on these shores, the equity futures are pointing to a higher open for the U.S. market. Still, while the positive start to the trading week is encouraging, especially in light of last Friday’s statement by the bulls, the week ahead will bring a plethora of earnings and economic news, which may well make for another volatile week on Wall Street. Stay tuned. – William G. Ferguson

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