After The Close - Stocks were mixed to lower in indecisive trading today. At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 26 points, but the NASDAQ was down two points. Market breadth was slightly negative on the Big Board and the NASDAQ, as well. Volume is typically unimpressive at this time of the year, though, with many on Wall Street taking extended vacations between Christmas and New Year’s. That makes it difficult to read much into the day’s price action.

Among sectors, shares of consumer cyclical companies led the way, beginning with Disney (DIS - Free Walt Disney Stock Report), the leading percentage gainer in the Dow-30. Helped by an analyst upgrade, shares of the entertainment conglomerate continued to add to their impressive upturn. The stock has gained more than 50% this year as investors value the company’s earning power more highly.

Also faring well in the consumer sector were shares of Crocs (CROX), which rose sharply on word that private equity firm Blackstone Group LP (BX) was taking a 13% stake in the shoemaker.

On the down side, energy stocks were among the laggards, with oil prices falling below $100 a barrel on the NYMEX. There were reports that production from Libya was ready to ramp up after a period of labor unrest reduced the flow of oil to around 250,000 barrels a day from more than 1.5 million daily earlier this year. In reaction, the shares of energy giant Exxon Mobil were the weakest performer among the Dow Industrials.

As for company news, the stock of Cooper Tire (CTB) rose after the manufacturer of replacement tires reported that a planned merger had fallen through.

On the economic front, the National Association of Realtors indicated that pending home sales rose less than expected. That helped push the yield on the 10-year Treasury note below the 3.00% threshold surpassed last week. Despite the day’s pullback in bond yields and the associated rise in prices, interest rates have clearly reversed course and headed higher late this year, helping push investors into stocks.

Tomorrow brings the final day of trading for 2013. The economic calendar includes the December releases for the Chicago PMI, where a slight drop is projected, and Consumer Confidence, which is thought to have risen notably.

There a full session for stocks on New Year’s Eve, although the bond market is scheduled to close early at 2:00 p.m. EST. - Robert Mitkowski

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


12:15 PM EST - The U.S. stock market is putting in a mixed performance today. The session has a quiet tone, as traders, having logged solid gains over the past year, are likely not making any bold moves this late in the game. At past noon in New York, The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up six points; the broader S&P 500 Index is largely unchanged; and the technology-heavy NASDAQ is down three points. Market breadth also indicates a subdued tone to today’s session, as declining stocks are just slightly ahead of advancers on the NYSE. However, many market sectors are in positive territory, and that, too, may be a good indicator. Notably, the consumer names are quite strong, with gains in the footwear area. The utilities are also attracting some buyers. However, the energy sector is weak, with losses in the large integrated issues. Crude oil, now trading just under $100 a barrel, is heading lower today, and this news may be hurting some of the related equities.

Technically, the S&P 500 Index, has drifted higher over the past week, or so. However, with a few exceptions, the trading volumes have been quite light. Notably, many traders and large institutions are likely taking a break, as the holiday season continues. The VIX is up a bit today moving over 13. However, it should be noted that this is still a low reading. Certainly, it will be interesting to see how the market pans out in 2014, especially after the past year of sizable gains.

Traders received little economic news today. Pending home sales for the month of November increased 0.2%, which was lighter than many had expected. However, this reading was better than the slight decline registered in October. Many of the home building stocks are trading higher, suggesting that the report was not too upsetting. Tomorrow, will be a bit busier, as we get a look at The Conference Board’s consumer confidence figures for December, as well as the monthly Chicago PMI report.

In corporate news, we heard from a few names today. Crocs (CROX) stock is sharply higher, after the shoe maker announced that a private equity firm will be purchasing some newly issued equity. In contrast, Myriad Genetics (MYGN) shares are sinking on news that reimbursement rates may be reduced for some of the company’s diagnostic tests. - 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- Today is likely to be another relatively quiet day on Wall Street as many investors gear up for the end of the year. That said, there are a couple of stocks that are making news this morning and are worth keeping a close eye on. Cooper Tire & Rubber (CTB) is one of those, experiencing pressure in pre-market trading after announcing that its $2.2 billion merger with Apollo Tyres has been called off. Elsewhere, it will be interesting to see how the market reacts to news that struggling footwear maker Crocs, Inc. (CROX) has agreed to take a $200 million investment from private equity firm Blackstone Group LP (BX) in exchange for a 13% stake in the company and the resignation of CEO John McCarvel. Meanwhile, investors are likely to weigh in on news that Apple Inc.’s (AAPL) board of directors is prompting shareholders to veto activist investor Carl Icahn’s proposal that the company buy back $50 billion in stock in fiscal 2014.   - Andre J. Costanza

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


Before The Bell - Wall Street concluded another record-breaking week in the holiday-shortened five-day stretch that ended this past Friday, but did so in rather listless and uneven fashion, as the tired bulls opted to rest on their laurels, following a string of record closing highs for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Standard and Poor's 500 Index, and some of the mid- and small-cap indexes.  

All told, the seesaw session ended with the Dow Industrials giving back just a point and a half, the S&P 500 Index easing by less than a point, and the NASDAQ, the big percentage gainer for this year among the large-cap composites, edging lower by almost 11 points, on weakness in some high-profile tech winners.  

Meanwhile, this has been a most incredible 12 months, and especially so, as this was not the first year of the bull market, but rather the fifth. All told, the Dow has gone from less than 6,500 in early 2009, to better than 16,500 at its peak on Friday--a run of some 10,000 points. In the process, that blue chip composite set 50 all-time highs over the course of the now-ending year, including the late run of six consecutive record closes. The Standard and Poor's 500 Index has done almost as well in the record category, soaring to 44 all-time highs this year. 

Now, the bulls appear to be trying to get their chips in order to venture forth in 2014 with more possible records to establish and obstacles to conquer. Of course, it will not be easy, as the market is certainly not cheap at these elevated levels, boasting, as it does, a price-earnings ratio of better than 18. True, in an era of low inflation, decent economic growth, and generally solid earnings, higher average P/E's can be tolerated. Still, a multiple of greater than 18 is getting somewhat rich and does not figure to leave much room for missteps, especially with yields on fixed-income vehicles also starting to climb to near where bonds and notes could start to be at least modest competition for stocks. Yields, though, are a bit lower this morning, as is gold, which had rallied some on Friday.

Still, even though we are into the fifth year of this major bull market and valuations are stretched, this has been the best year for equities since 1995, and even now, indications are that the bull just might continue its charge into 2014. However, we do note that given the elevated levels of the market that the news, which has been consistently good this year on multiple counts, will need to stay that way.

Now, a new week is about to get under way, and after some generally better results in Asia overnight and a slightly improved showing in Europe this morning, our equity futures are mixed ahead of the bell, which is due to sound in a bit less than an hour from now. Once more, with a semi-holiday atmosphere around, we can expect volume to be on the light side.

Finally, news will again be sparse today, which will also contribute to the expected light volume. Things will pick up a bit tomorrow, however, with data scheduled for release on consumer confidence, where a nice gain is forecast for December. Also, we should be getting the monthly report on manufacturing in the greater Chicago area tomorrow, as well. Then, after the market closes for New Year's Day on Wednesday, we will start 2014 trading on Thursday with data on U.S. manufacturing activity and construction spending. The week will then conclude with the monthly survey on U.S. vehicle sales for December. Thus, holiday, or not, it should be a fairly busy week for economic news, which could lend some excitement to the market in the days to come after a likely listless opening 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.