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After The Close - The U.S. stock market put in a very volatile session today. Specifically, stocks got off to a healthy start, slipped deep into negative territory at about noon, but managed to recover partially by the end of the session. Much of the market volatility today was due to reports that hostilities between Russia and Ukraine had escalated. At the end of the session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 51 points; the broader S&P 500 Index was flat; and the NASDAQ gained 12 points. Market breadth was slightly negative, as declining issues outnumbered advancers by a narrow margin on the NYSE. However, it should be noted that some major market sectors managed to make progress. The high-yielding utilities pressed higher, with gains in the water company stocks. Also, the energy group moved up quite a bit, as the price of crude oil rebounded over 1%, to $97.01 a barrel. In contrast, there was considerable weak in the financial area. Too, some of the consumer names were quite sluggish.

Stocks ended the week on a mixed note. But, that does not detract from some of the positive progress made over the past several sessions. The next several days will be quite telling, as the bulls will have to keep the pressure on, in order to extend the recent rally. It should be noted that trading volumes have been light, and it would be encouraging to see a bit more participation.

Meanwhile, traders received a large batch of economic news this morning. Specifically, producer prices rose 0.1% in July, which was slightly less than some economists had expected. This likely suggests that Inflation remains under control, as least for now. Meanwhile, industrial production increased 0.4% in July, which was stronger than the consensus forecast. However, not all of today’s reports were favorable. The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index provided a preliminary reading of 79.2 for the month of August, which was a bit lower than had been anticipated. Too, the Empire Manufacturing Survey for August fell to 14.7, which was well below the prior month’s reading.

Finally, we heard from a few large corporations today. In the technology arena, Applied Materials (AMAT) put out a decent report, sending that stock higher. In the retail sector, J.C. Penney (JCP) put out a better-than-anticipated release. That issue opened higher, but closed down modestly. - 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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12:15 PM EDT - The final day of the trading week started off benignly enough, and for a while, at least, it appeared as though Wall Street would put together two consecutive weeks of gains. Economic news was clearly supportive, with the U.S. Labor Department reporting that the Producer Price Index was only up one-tenth of a percentage point for July, thanks to falling energy prices, namely gasoline which fell 2.1%. Stripping out food (which was up 0.4%) and energy, we got a core increase of 0.2% for the month, which matched June’s figure. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve also released favorable figures regarding U.S. Industrial production, with July posting a 0.4% rise (also matching June’s number), with a big boost coming from the automotive sector, which jumped 10.1% for the month.

All of this was immediately put on the back burner, however, as new developments surfaced on the geopolitical front. Specifically, reports of a Ukrainian attack on a Russian military unit that had entered Ukraine soil sent tremors across global equity markets. On our shores, the Dow Jones Industrials, S&P 500, and NASDAQ composite were all showing modest gains before the news broke, but immediately retreated to negative territory. The Industrials took the biggest hit of the three, shedding 175 points from its high for the morning. As we pass the noon hour of trading here in New York, the blue chip index is down 125 points. The broader S&P 500 Index and the tech-heavy NASDAQ are faring a little better, each down just over a half percent.

Looking across the Atlantic, it was a similar story for the European bourses. Stocks were moving uniformly higher on a relatively quiet news day, with all the major indexes at their respective highs in late afternoon trading. Once the news from the Ukraine broke, shares quickly tumbled. Germany’s DAX was hit particularly hard, falling over 3% from its intraday peak, to a decline of 1.7% as trading there neared its close. France’s CAC-40 also took a dip, showing a loss of half a percentage point. Meanwhile, London’s FTSE fared the best of the lot, managing to close a hair above breakeven. – Mario Ferro

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

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Stocks to Watch from The SurveyEarnings season is getting a second wind, as July-period results are starting to emerge. Investors appeared pleased with financials from department store operator J.C. Penney (JCP), software developer Autodesk (ADSK), cosmetics company Estee Lauder (EL), and Applied Materials (AMAT), a maker of semiconductor wafer fabrication equipment, and all of these stocks are moving higher ahead of the bell, in response. On the other hand, Wall Street took issue with July-interim results from Nordstrom (JWN), which missed the mark. Consequently, shares of the high-end retailer are indicating a lower opening this morning.

Elsewhere, in the beverage industry, shares of Monster (MNST) are soaring in the premarket, after industry heavyweight Coca-Cola (KOFree Coca-Cola Stock Report) agreed to purchase a 16.7% stake in the energy drink maker for $2.15 billion. KO stock is up slightly on the news. – 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 - The bulls made it three winning sessions out of four this week, pushing stocks nicely higher throughout the day and lifting the major averages, which seemed headed toward a correction last week, that much closer to returning to their respective yearly and all-time highs secured earlier this year.

Wall Street managed all that on a day in which the data showed that first-time jobless claims had jumped by more than expected in the latest week, yet remained fairly near their lows for the cycle, while several high-profile companies reported less-than-compelling net results and issued uninspiring guidance.    

The general consensus is that investors did not appear overly worried by either trend. First, jobless claims have been coming in at a lower-than-expected pace in recent weeks, and this suggests, along with the most recent monthly figures, that the long-suffering employment situation is getting better--albeit not all at once. As for earnings, they have been better, too, for the most part. In fact, even in some cases where the results were clearly disappointing, there has been little overall negative market reaction. Cautionary guidance, in the meantime, is on the rise, as it often is at this stage of the reporting cycle, when companies have largely issued their metrics for the latest period and are looking out three months.

As for the recent session, as noted, stocks began the day higher and did not look back at any point, although for the most part, the gains were contained, which is not all that surprising in that equities are again looking overbought in light of the strength seen over the past week, which included an outsized gain last Friday. Meanwhile, as was the case on Wednesday, the market seemed to get a second wind during the afternoon, as stocks rallied further late in the session. The absence of additional dire news from abroad, save for the issuance, earlier in the day, of some lackluster economic growth figures in Germany and France, also helped to boost sentiment on our shores. The standoff between Russia and Ukraine is still tense and may not ease anytime soon, but things at least do not appear to be getting any worse. Much of the same can be said about the current hot spots across the always fractious Middle East.    

As to the actual trend of yesterday's market, the Dow Jones Industrial Average boosted by fairly imposing gains in the shares of aerospace and defense stalwart Boeing (BA), entertainment behemoth Walt Disney (DIS - Free Disney Stock Report), and some high-profile health care names led the way higher, as the blue chip index added 62 points. That gain put the Dow back above 16,700. It also pushed that index further into the plus column for the year, a level it had attained the day before. The Dow has spent much of the year in the red, following a weak January. The Dow's close of 16,714 puts this index less than 450 points from its record intraday high of 17,151. The Standard and Poor's 500 Index, meanwhile, added eight points and the NASDAQ, which had shown some leadership in recent sessions, lagged somewhat with a gain of 19 points. The small-cap Russell 2000 Composite, however, barely budged on the day, suggesting some aversion to risk, even though stocks rose.  

Looking ahead now, we find that the concluding day of the week has just seen the Labor Department release figures showing that the Producer Price Index rose by a nominal 0.1% last month, which was half the increases generally forecast, versus the June increase of 0.4%. This benign result suggests that the Federal Reserve will not need to alter its loose monetary policies for some months yet, with the initial interest-rate hike still likely for mid-2015, in our view. Meanwhile, if we back out the food and energy components, to get the so-called core PPI, we find that prices increased just modestly there, as well. Now, following this report, at 9:15 AM (EDT), the Commerce Department will issue its monthly figures on industrial production and capacity utilization. Nominal increases are forecast there.

As to the markets, in Asia overnight, the leading indexes were nicely higher, as are the stocks in Europe thus far this morning. And the good feelings extend to our markets, where the Standard and Poor's 500 Index futures are now ahead by more than four points, while the NASDAQ futures are higher by 13 points. All of this presages some extension of the recent rally at the start of the new trading day, which will commence in less than an hour from now  

At the time of this article’s writing, the author held positions in one or more of the companies mentioned.