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After The Close - The U.S. stock market moved higher this morning, but weakened later in the afternoon. A batch of unimpressive earnings reports and concerns about mounting hostilities in Ukraine seemed largely to blame. At the close of the session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 46 points; the broader S&P 500 Index was down three points; and the NASDAQ slipped four points. However, it should be noted that there was some relative strength in the small-and-mid cap names, which was encouraging. Market breadth was largely neutral, as advancing issues were about even with decliners on the NYSE. A few market sectors made progress. There was strength in the basic materials and energy stocks. However, the utilities were quite weak. The healthcare sector also lost some ground, with declines in the biotechnology names.

Technically, stocks hit resistance today. This is not surprising, as some of the major averages have run up over the past few weeks. The market has also been quite volatile lately, and it seems that whenever progress is made, it is quickly followed by a partial decline.

Investors received a few economic reports today. It looks as though the employment situation is improving. Nonfarm payrolls rose by 288,000 for the month of April, which was much better than many had expected. The unemployment rate, too, fell to 6.3% from the prior 6.7% reading. While the report was positive, some may be concerned about a contraction in the labor force. Elsewhere, factory orders increased 1.1% for the month of March. However, this showing was slightly below expectations.

Meanwhile, traders received numerous earnings reports. We heard from Wynn Resorts (WYNN). That stock moved up, after the company issued strong results. In the retail area, we heard from CVS Caremark (CVS) reported. That stock ended higher, as that company put out decent figures. Elsewhere, AstraZeneca (AZN) rejected Pfizer’s (PFE - Free Pfizer Stock Report) acquisition offer, sending those two stocks lower.   - 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 major U.S. equity indexes started the final trading day of the week modestly in positive territory and then spent the rest of the morning hours bouncing around breakeven. An encouraging report on the U.S. labor market (more below) did not ignite the major averages as much as many would have expected, we think because there was some disconcerting news from overseas that counterbalanced the jobs data. Investors also are weighing another round of earnings reports, which once again look to be mixed, at best. And that is also partly responsible for the lack of direction today for equities. Thus, as we pass the midday hour on the East Coast, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the technology heavy NASDAQ, and the broader S&P 500 Index are not removed from where they started the session. However, the undertone to trading is still more positive, as advancing issues are ahead of decliners on both the NYSE and the NASDAQ, and there is some buying strength in the small- and mid-cap markets. All in all, we are heading toward a winning week on Wall Street.

As noted, the big news came from the U.S. Labor Department. Before the commencement of trading on these shores, the government reported that the nation created 288,000 new jobs in April, with notable contributions from the construction and manufacturing sectors. The report also showed an upward revision of 36,000 positions in the prior two months, which, along with a sharper-than-expected drop in the unemployment rate (to 6.3%), was encouraging. The only disconcerting aspect in the April jobs report was a 62.8% labor participation rate, which was the lowest level since April, 1978. This equates to more than 800,000 dropping out of the workforce last month.

The labor data are prompting some sector rotation today. Investors are showing a greater appetite for risky equities. Such sentiment is weighing on the more-defensive consumer staples, healthcare and utilities issues today. Conversely, the economically sensitive groups are in demand, with leadership coming from the basic materials, financial, and consumer discretionary stocks. Within the consumer cyclical space, the stocks of the major retailing companies are doing well following the aforementioned better-than-expected employment and unemployment data.

Meantime, we did get some more news on the geopolitical situation in Eastern Europe—and the investment community did not seem to like it. (We think it is heavily responsible for the bulls not making a big statement following the jobs data.) Specifically, investors were taken aback a bit by reports that Russia is calling for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting on Ukraine. Concurrently, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is in Washington today to meet with President Obama to discuss the rising tension between Ukraine and Russia and possible additional sanctions on Russia from the two economic powerhouses. This situation bears close watching, as it remains fluid and it can raise the volatility in the market in a New York minute.

The aforementioned economic and geopolitical news has overshadowed another busy earnings day. Of note, shares of social networking giant LinkedIn (LNKD) and crane manufacturer Manitowoc (MTW) are lower following their latest quarterly results, while the reverse is holding true for the stocks of pharmacy giant CVS Caremark (CVS) and tire manufacturer Cooper Tire & Rubber (CTB). We also got the latest quarterly snapshot from Dow-30 component Chevron (CVX - Free Chevron Stock Report). That stock is relatively flat today, but shares of most of its oil and gas peers are in positive territory so far today. - 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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Stocks to Watch from The Survey Earnings season is still in high gear, and there are lots of reports to be aware of today. On the bright side, investors appeared pleased with quarterly financials and/or outlooks from cosmetics company Estee Lauder (EL), hotel and casino operator Wynn Resorts (WYNN), packaged foods company Kraft (KRFT), and content delivery network provider Akamai Technologies (AKAM), as all of these issues are moving higher ahead of the bell. The biggest winner, however, looks to be headphone designer Skullcandy (SKUL), which is seeing its stock move sharply higher in the premarket thanks to a narrower-than-expected loss in the March period and an improved outlook. On the other hand, shares of energy giant Chevron (CVXFree Chevron Stock Report), household products maker Newell Rubbermaid (NWL), social network operator LinkedIn (LNKD), online travel agency Expedia (EXPE), and drugstore operator CVS Caremark (CVS) are all indicating lower openings this morning on earnings news.

Elsewhere, drugmaker AstraZeneca (AZN) has rejected a sweetened, $106 billion takeover bid from industry peer Pfizer (PFEFree Pfizer Stock Report), saying that it “substantially undervalues” the company. Both stocks are down slightly ahead of the bell, in response. – 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 - May Day came and went, and while the modest losses booked during the session may not affirm the veracity of the old mantra of "Sell in May and go away," it was, at least, a cautionary note for the start of a month that often has been unkind to equity holders. Our sense, however, that it was more a case of some minor trepidation ahead of this morning's release of the monthly employment and unemployment figures (see below) than any tendency to go along with an old phrase that may or may not ring true this year.

All told, the stock market gave back some selective ground, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which had hit its first record high for this year on Wednesday, being the weak link in what was just a narrowly lower market. On point, the Dow, which trended lower throughout much of the session, but was never deeply in the red, ended the trading day off 22 points. The other indexes mostly bounced around the neutral line on a day marked by generally favorable economic releases, save for the NASDAQ, which added 13 points. On the economy, we saw somewhat better-than-expected data on March personal income and consumer expenditures, decent auto sales comparisons, a stellar report on manufacturing activity for April, and a less-than-compelling reading on weekly jobless claims.     

On reflection, it may have been the jobless claims figures that dampened buying enthusiasm for stocks. To be sure, the losses were muted yesterday and the jobless claims increase was not overly unnerving. Still, this was the second time in as many weeks that this survey showed an increase, although the aggregate total of layoffs held below the 350,000 mark, which is generally thought to be a bullish level for employment. However, with the high-profile monthly employment figures released within the past half hour, there were some obvious concerns ahead of that report.

At the same time, we saw another succession of earnings reports, headlined by the quarterly issuance from oil and gas behemoth Exxon Mobil (XOM - Free Exxon Mobil Stock Report), a Dow-30 component. That release showed a somewhat better-than-expected result, but still a slight decline on a year-to-year basis for this giant corporation. There were some other beats and misses, including a better report from the weight loss company, Weight Watchers (WTW). That issue, which has been under pressure for months and recently hit a 52-week low, pressed notably higher following the early morning bottom-line release.

Meanwhile, whatever the latest series of economic issuances imply about a specific sector, the bottom line is that there is a notable spring thaw now under way in the economy, with such reassuring data as the aforementioned manufacturing survey, the personal income and spending metrics, and uplifting recent numbers on industrial production and consumer sentiment. Of course, all of this was just the prelude to this morning's release on job creation, in which the Labor Department had reported that the nation added a strong 288,000 non-farm payrolls in April, the biggest rise since January of 2012. Expectations had been for an increase of 215,000. The gain in March was 203,000. At the same time the unemployment rate plunged from 6.7% to 6.3%. That was the lowest jobless rate since September of 2008.     

As to other items of note, today will be another heavy day for earnings reports, as we move into and now a bit past the peak of earnings season, in particular for the larger companies, which often tend to report first. Overall, the results have been a bit better than the generally low expectations going into this period. 

Looking ahead to the new day on Wall Street, we find that nervousness ahead of the Labor Department's report had some impact on the European markets, where stocks were irregularly lower just a bit earlier. Meantime, our markets, after dancing around the unchanged line before the employment report's release, have now firmed up nicely, and are suggesting a higher opening when the trading day commences in less than an hour from now. - Harvey S. Katz

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