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After The Close - The stock market finished off a decent week with a strong gain today. Notably, the market maintained its upward momentum through most of the day, which was a positive indication going forward. At the close of the day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 142 points (1.0%); the broader S&P 500 Index gained 17 points (1.1%); and the technology-heavy NASDAQ tacked on 38 points (1.1%). Most stocks made progress, as advancers swamped decliners on the NYSE, another sign of strength. All the major sectors participated in today’s move, with leadership in the basic materials issues. Notably, the steel-related names, which have been battered lately, rebounded nicely. The energy sector also had a good day, helped by the oil and gas drillers. Crude oil rose above $95 a barrel, which possibly helped some equities here. Meanwhile, the utilities lagged, as the electrical companies posted declines.

Technically, the S&P 500 Index moved through the 1,600 mark today, and may well move higher, as a result. However, the index has rallied with no major corrections since the start of the year, and some traders may be concerned that the current level of bullishness could add to the risk of a larger correction. Notably, the VIX is lower again, and may suggest that the markets are overbought. Further, valuations are getting high, adding to the worries.

Behind this up move was the fact that before trading opened, Wall Street got some good news. Notably, the non-farm payroll release for April indicated that the job market is finally improving and that the economy is, indeed, on the mend. Also, the unemployment rate headed lower, which is good for consumer sentiment. Elsewhere, traders looked past a weak factory orders report for the month of March, as well as a lackluster reading on the ISM Non-Manufacturing Index for April.

Meanwhile, earnings season is still in swing and that may help fuel the rally for a while. Now that many of the big issues have reported, we will start to hear from some of the smaller-cap names and that can also be quite telling.  Stocks that moved up in price today included: Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), American International Group (AIG), and Weatherford (WFT). Issues that moved down in price included: Zagg (ZAGG), LinkedIn (LNKD), and Arena Pharmaceuticals (ARNA). -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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12:10 PM EDT  - The U.S. stock market is moving higher today, adding to yesterday’s gains. It will be crucial to see if this strength can be maintained into the close of the session today, especially as some traders could be cautious about holding positions through the weekend. Meanwhile, Wall Street is likely reacting to favorable economic news released before the market opened. Specifically, the non-farm payroll release indicated that 165,000 jobs were added to the economy in April. This reading was better than analysts had expected, and also higher than the upwardly revised 138,000 jobs added in March. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate headed lower to 7.5%, a slight improvement over last month’s reading, too. The upbeat news may have caught some by surprise, after lackluster ADP’s employment figures were released earlier this week. Elsewhere, traders likely shrugged off a few less encouraging reports. Factory orders dipped 4.0% in the month of March. Also, the ISM Non-manufacturing Index came in a 53.1 for April, falling just short of the prevailing expectations of 54.0.

So, stocks are soaring. In fact, as we pass the noon hour in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 151 points (1.0%); the S&P 500 is ahead 18 points (1.1%); and the NASDAQ, which is showing leadership, is up 44 points (1.3%). Market breadth is favorable, as advancing stocks are outweighing decliners by a wide margin on both the NYSE and on the NASDAQ. The market sectors are all in positive territory, with notable strength in the basic materials and the capital goods issues. There is no real weakness today, but the utilities are not keeping pace with the broader market, as typically the case when tolerance for risk increases.

Technically, the S&P 500 Index is now firmly in new high territory, having crossed the 1,600 mark. This level may hold some “psychological” significance with investors, as it corresponds to a large round number. So, it will be crucial to see if the index can hold and even build on its gains above this area in the week ahead. Stronger trading volumes would also be a favorable indicator. The VIX is lower today to just below 13, suggesting most investors are feeling bullish.

There also were a few corporate reports worth mentioning today. Fluor (FLR) stock is up sharply, after that company posted stronger-than-anticipated quarterly results.  However, things are not going as well for LinkedIn (LNKD). That stock is trading lower after the Internet company put out a strong set of numbers, but tempered its outlook. - 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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10:00 AM EDT - Stocks have gotten out of the gate quickly this morning, and the impetus was a better-than-expected report on the U.S. employment situation. To wit, earlier this morning, the U.S. Labor Department reported that non-farm payrolls had increased by 165,000 in April, which was modestly ahead of the generally forecast increase of 150,000 jobs. Also, payroll numbers for February and March were revised upward, while the nation's unemployment rate fell from 7.6% in March to 7.5% last month.

That upbeat report took what had been a flattish indication for the market's opening this morning to a broadly higher suggested start to the trading day, with the futures rallying significantly in the moments following the report's issuance.

And those favorable expectations have been realized, with the major indexes all surging across the board in the early going. Indeed, as we near the 30-minute mark of the trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up by 145 points; the Standard and Poor's 500 Index is better by 18 points; and the NASDAQ is some 40 points to the good. The upbeat news also extends to the small- and mid-cap areas, with the small-cap benchmark Russell 2000 ahead by 11 points and the S&P Mid-Cap 400 up by 18 points.

These latter string gains suggest that the tolerance for risk is once more on the rise, which is further underscored by a drop in the VIX volatility Index to just north of 13--a historically low reading and once that is suggestive of a materially overbought stock market. - Harvey S. Katz     

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 drumbeat of earnings news continues, and investors appear pleased with a number of quarterly reports. Among today’s early winners are insurer American International Group (AIG), diet and nutritional services provider Weight Watchers (WTW), biotechnology company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN), packaged foods giant Kraft (KRFT), business outsourcing solutions provider Automatic Data Processing (ADP), and drugmaker Gilead Sciences (GILD).

It was not all good news, however, and one of the biggest disappointments came from social network operator LinkedIn (LNKD), which delivered a sharp increase in first-quarter profits but issued lackluster guidance, causing its stock to move notably lower in the premarket. Other stocks indicating lower openings ahead of the bell on earnings news include online jeweler Blue Nile (NILE) and headphone designer and manufacturer Skullcandy (SKUL). – 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  - The old adage of "Sell in May and go away'' appeared to work on the first day of this month, as equities tumbled over a broad front on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, for example, falling by 139 points. However, yesterday proved to be another day, and it evolved into a complete reversal over the course of the session. Indeed, after its 139-point decline on Wednesday, the Dow turned around completely in the latest session, gaining back all but eight of the prior day's point loss. Joining the Dow in its recovery yesterday were the NASDAQ (up 41 points), and the Standard and Poor's 500 Index (up 15 points).

Behind this latest comeback by what remains an overbought stock market were stellar gains by the technology group, a rate cut by the European Central Bank, and a better-than-expected report on the labor situation at home. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Labor reported an hour before the equity market opened that first-time jobless claims had fallen to their lower level in more than five years in the latest week.

That favorable report from the government did two things. First, it overcame concerns voiced the day before due to a dour survey by Automatic Data Processing (ADP) on private-sector job growth in April. The better jobless claims data also increased hopes that the more critical survey on non-farm payrolls just issued moments ago by the government would be a more welcoming report than some have been fearing.

In addition to the economic situation, there were earnings reports to deal with and yesterday, there was some good news on that score, namely from social networking provider Facebook (FB), which reported higher quarterly earnings and saw its shares rise nicely. Also, Visa (V) reported that its quarterly profits fell less than expected, and that stock moved nicely higher on the day, as well.

As to this morning, the aforementioned report on non-farm payrolls was better than expected. The consensus forecast had been for a payroll increase of 165,000 last month. That was some 15,000 better than forecast. At the same time, the jobless rate, expected to either hold steady at the March level of 7.6%, or tick up to 7.7%, actually eased to 7.5%--which was the lowest rate in more than five years .

The reaction on Wall Street has been immediate, and the equity futures, which had been no better than flat before this report's issuance, jumped sharply to respective gains of 11 points and 22 points in the Standard and Poor's 500 Index and the NASDAQ, presaging a notably higher opening when trading commences in less than an hour from now.

Looking ahead, with the S&P and the Dow both appearing as though they will set all-time record highs when trading resumes this morning, Wall Street will then have to digest a report, due out at 10:00 AM (EDT) today, on non-manufacturing activity. A slightly slower advance is expected for this survey, which tracks activity in the services sector. – Harvey S. Katz

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