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After The Close -The U.S. equity market pushed higher today after a nondescript start to the trading week yesterday. The major equity averages, with the exception of the NASDAQ, were higher from the get-go and extended their initial gains as the session unfolded. Even the NASDAQ was able to overcome a weak showing from the technology stocks today to finish with a modest gain. Investors were emboldened by growing sentiment that the Federal Reserve will likely continue its accommodative monetary policies when it meets next week. That theory gained some legs after the government reported that nonfarm payrolls grew by an unimposing 148,000 positions in September. The prevailing thought is that the economy is still not performing on a formidable enough level to justify pulling the rug out from under it by tapering its bond buying.

By the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the broader S&P 500 Index—which set a new high during the session—had added 76 and 10 points, respectively. This is not surprising given that all of the top-10 sectors, with the exception of the technology group, were nicely higher today. In particular, leadership came from the utilities, consumer staples, and basic materials groups. The latter area got a boost from the precious metals and aluminum stocks, particularly shares of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (FCX) and Alcoa (AA). Meantime, as noted, the technology sector, which has been a stellar performer thus far in October, gave some ground in the latest session. Weakness in some of the big social-networking stocks, including Facebook (FB), LinkedIn (LNKD), and Yelp (YELP) proved to be too much to overcome for the group. Some profit taking in 2013 standout performer Netflix (NFLX) also weighed on the group.

Speaking of technology, the industry was very much in the news today. The headline story was the latest Apple (AAPL) product event in San Francisco. During the event, the technology behemoth unveiled new Macs computers and its latest computer operating system, Mavericks, which is available free of charge. The latter product is a stark contrast to Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows 8 operating system, which currently retails for a few hundred dollars. In related news, Nokia (NOK), whose phone and device business is being taken over by the aforementioned Microsoft, unveiled its first tablet computer. The device, called Lumia 2520, will begin shipping in the upcoming holiday shopping season. Shares of both Apple and Microsoft finished the session modestly lower.

Meanwhile, as noted, the day’s big news came from the government. Specifically, the Department of Labor reported that the nation created a lower-than-expected 148,000 new jobs in September and the unemployment rate edged a bit lower to 7.2%. At times such lackluster labor market data would have prompted a selloff. However, that was not the case today, as investors took the unimposing job growth figures as another sign that the Federal Reserve will keep its easy money policies, which are designed to foster job growth and stable prices, in place, for some time. Historically, accommodative monetary policies from the Federal Reserve are viewed favorably by stock market participants and certainly that seemed to be the case once again today on Wall Street.

The data from the Labor Department seemed to overshadow another busy day of earnings news, which included the latest quarterly results from Dow-30 companies DuPont (DD - Free DuPont Stock Report), Travelers (TRV - Free Travelers Stock Report) and United Technologies (UTX - Free United Technologies Stock Report). In addition to those releases, two prominent high-end specialty retailers Coach (COH) and Harley Davidson (HOG) reported their latest quarterly results and stocks of both companies were lower, though Harley’s release was much more upbeat. We highlight the retailers, as that sector will be under significant scrutiny in the coming month, as the all-important holiday shopping season will kick off on Thanksgiving. Investors will also get a better gauge of how this crucial sector of the economy is doing on October 29th, when the delayed data on U.S. retail sales will be released. That so happens to be the day the Federal Reserve’s commences its two-day FOMC meeting. - William Ferguson


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

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12:30 PM EDT - The U.S. stock market is putting in a positive, but somewhat choppy, session today. At just past noon in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 45 points; the S&P 500 Index is ahead seven points; and, the NASDAQ, which has been moving in and out of positive territory, is now up seven points. There is some underlying strength to the session, as advancing issues are well ahead of decliners on the NYSE. In addition, most of the market sectors are advancing today, which is another positive indicator. The basic materials stocks are moving higher, with strength in the metals names. Notably, gold is strengthening in price, and that is likely helping here. The healthcare issues are also doing well, thanks to strength in the biotechnology group. Moreover, the high-yielding utilities, which have been lagging for some time now, are rebounding sharply today. However, there is still some weakness in the technology names, as hardware stocks, in particular, are lower.

Technically, the S&P 500 Index has made some large strides lately. Today’s move up puts the broad Index through the 1,750 mark. While the bulls are still in control, the VIX is slightly higher today, and this may suggest that some traders may be getting concerned that the market has come too far, too fast.

Traders received one very important economic report this morning. Specifically, non-farm payrolls for the month of September came in at 148,000, which was lower than the August figure, and also shy of estimates. Meanwhile, the headline unemployment rate dipped to 7.2%. While the report was somewhat negative, traders may now feel that the Fed will have to stand firm on its accommodative policies when it meets next week. For those interested, we will get more information on the employment situation of Thursday, when the weekly jobless claims are released.

The third-quarter earnings season is in full gear. Today, we heard from a few leading names in various industries. We received generally favorable reports from Travelers (TRV - Free Travelers Stock Report), Lockheed Martin (LMT), and Delta Airlines (DAL). In technology, Texas Instruments (TXN) issued a weak outlook, sending that stock moderately lower. The earnings season has been decent, so far, and as long as companies meet their targets, the market may continue to rally. Soon we will be getting a look at the results from some of the smaller-cap companies, and that is always interesting, and volatile. - 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 – As earnings season hits its stride, today’s slate is led by reports from three of the Dow 30. Insurance titan Travelers (TRV -Free Travelers Stock Report), industrial conglomerate United Technologies (UTX -Free United Technologies Stock Report), and chemicals concern DuPont (DD - Free DuPont Stock Report) should have active days.

In the tech world, keep an eye on Apple (AAPL), the California-based behemoth has a media event planned for this afternoon where it is expected to unveil new models of the iPad and iPad mini. Too, high-profile storage participant EMC Corp. (EMC) will be releasing its third-quarter figures today.

A number of other sectors are on tap as well. In the drug space, Amgen (AMGN) announces its quarterly results today. In dining, Panera Bread (PNRA) should grab most of the headlines when it displays its third-quarter showing. -Erik M. Manning

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 stock market took a breather yesterday following one of the more hectic weeks of the year during the prior five-day stretch that saw the market press higher on the strength of a short-term deal between the two parties on Capitol Hill. That settlement, not only re-opened the government, but also averted a much more serious potential default on our $16.7 trillion in debt. Yesterday's showing in comparison had none of the flair exhibited last week, as the leading averages never strayed far from the unchanged mark. In fact, even late in the session, when a selectively bearish tone took hold, the averages all held in a relatively tight range. In all, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed off by just seven points, while the tech-heavy NASDAQ rose six points, principally on strength in the technology space.

Keeping both the bulls and the bears at bay, meantime, was a continuation of a reasonable, but certainly not overwhelming, earnings reporting season that saw just a ho-hum issuance from fast-food icon and Dow-30 component McDonald's (MCDFree McDonald’s Stock Report). That stock, which was in negative territory throughout the day, finally closed off just modestly. The issue has been one of the poorer performers on the blue-chip index all year. Elsewhere, there was little other movement of note among the large-cap sector, although some tech issues, especially those that have been doing well recently, continued to bask in the glow of the long and increasingly potent bull market.

As for other influences besides earnings, the National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales had ticked ever so slightly lower last month. Still, volume remained at constructive levels; prices continued to press higher; and inventories were again held in check, at a five-month supply. That is a level that should prompt additional buying, given that interest rates have again pushed a bit lower over the past few weeks.  

Then, there is the Federal Reserve, which seems to be wedded to further easy money policies going forward. The evidence of this continued long-standing monetary bias should be apparent next week when the central bank holds its next FOMC meeting and is expected to continue to aggressively pump money into the system, via the purchase of $85 billion in mortgage securities each month. The likely Fed thinking is that the business expansion is simply too weak, particularly following the ill-conceived partial government shutdown, to risk anything less in terms of support. The global economy is also still at risk, with Europe only now giving off signals that it is about to exit its series of rolling recessions.

And on our shores, the aforementioned government shutdown and accompanying fear that we might fall victim to a debt default, if cooler heads did not prevail, may suggest that any away from an aggressively easier monetary policy for some months to come might be premature. The coming accession of nominee Janet Yellen to head the Fed, assuming she is confirmed by the Senate, is also likely to keep the bank from abandoning its easy policies for some months. Ms. Yellen is an acknowledged dove on monetary policy.

Meantime, on the economy, the Labor Department has issued one of the key reports for the month, when its released the delayed (due to the government shutdown) metrics on employment and unemployment. Here, Labor reported that the nation added just 148,000 jobs in September. That was off notably from August's upwardly revised 193,000 tally. At the same time, the jobless rate, which is compiled from a separate survey, ticked down from 7.3% to 7.2%. A flattish reading had been the consensus forecast. The report seemed to embolden the bulls just a bit, perhaps because the weak jobs number further lessens the chances the Fed will revise its policies next week. In all, investors expect a modestly higher opening when trading resumes in less than an hour from now. This follows some mixed performances in Asia overnight and in Europe this morning. – Harvey S. Katz

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