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After The Close - It was a directionless session of trading on Wall Street today. Neither the recently reinvigorated bulls nor the bears made any kind of big statement during a nondescript session of trading. Overall, investors seemed to favor the large-cap issues a bit more than their small-cap brethren, which, with one exception being yesterday, has been the norm for the better part of this year. The mixed performance—none of the major U.S equity indexes strayed too far from the neutral line—was reflected in the advance/decline line, with the advancers holding a slight advantage on the Big Board and the spread favoring the decliners on the NASDAQ.

Today’s malaise on Wall Street should not come as much of a surprise, as it was a rather quiet day on both the earnings and economic fronts. That will change tomorrow on the business beat when the Commerce Department releases its second look at GDP growth for the second quarter. We also will get the latest data on weekly unemployment claims. Meantime, we did get some earnings news today, but nothing that would be considered of the market-moving variety. Specifically, gun maker Smith & Wesson (SWHC) fired blanks in the latest quarter and shares of the company fell after the earnings release. Conversely, shares of retailers Express (EXPR) and Tiffany & Co. (TIF) rose after reporting their latest quarterly figures. The stock of Best Buy (BBY) was also active again after reporting results yesterday morning. The nation’s largest electronics retailer posted disappointing results and said that its outlook for the holiday shopping season was not particularly uplifting; BBY stock rebounded partially after yesterday’s setback.

There was some interesting news from the corporate world today. This afternoon, reports surfaced that Apple (AAPL) has moved up the date to unveil its iWatch and iPhone 6 products to September 9th. Shares of technology behemoth hit another post-split high in the latest session. Meantime, the beleaguered shares of RadioShack (RSH) were up for a second-straight day after rumors have surfaced that retailer may be nearing a possible financial rescue plan.   

From a sector perspective, there were not many groups among the top 10 that stood out. Leadership did come from the higher-yielding telecommunications and utilities stocks. These issues may be becoming more attractive to income-oriented investors, given the recent drop in yields on high-income securities. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which hovered around 3.00% at the start of 2014, has currently fallen to 2.36%.  Conversely, the industrial stocks were once again slightly out of favor. Other than these aforementioned areas, there was not a lot to talk about today.     

As we noted here yesterday, the recent actions of the equity, bond, and currency markets are suggesting that investors expect interest rates to remain low through at least early- to mid-2015. How long will the low-interest environment continue to support equities, which are near record highs?  Investors should note we are fast approaching what has been a historically strong period for equities, that being the stretch of trading days ranging from Labor Day to the mid-term elections. - William G. 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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12:15 PM - The U.S. stock market is putting in a choppy performance today. At just past noon in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is ahead two points; the broader S&P 500 Index is essentially unchanged; and the technology-laden NASDAQ is off just slightly. There is a mixed overall quality to today’s session, as advancing stocks are just about even with decliners on the NYSE. But a few equity groups are pressing ahead. Specifically, the utilities are moving nicely higher. The healthcare names are also doing quite well. In contrast, the technology area is sluggish today.

The market may be in a need of a pause, given the large strides made over the past several weeks. A break here would likely give traders a chance to get acclimated to equities at the current levels. It is important to note, too, that trading volumes have been light, as we are in the final weeks of the summer and many market participants are probably on vacation. Things may change over the next few weeks, as business resumes.

Meanwhile, traders received little economic news this morning, and this may be contributing to today’s somewhat directionless tone. However, things should pick up a bit tomorrow. We get a look at the weekly initial and continuing jobless claims. The first revision for second-quarter GDP is due out, as well as are pending home sales for July.

Finally, there were a handful of corporate reports issued today. Express (EXPR) shares are moving higher, after the retailer issued better-than-expected results. Also, Tiffany (TIF) stock is ahead modestly, after the upscale jeweler put out a decent report.

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 SurveyInvestors are digesting several earnings reports this morning, and the biggest winner, at least early on, appears to be Express, Inc. (EXPR). The stock is moving sharply higher ahead of the bell, after the apparel and accessories retailer released better-than-expected July-period results and increased its guidance. Other equities gaining steam in the premarket include jeweler Tiffany & Co. (TIF) and Aruba Networks (ARUN), a provider of enterprise mobility solutions. TIF shares are moving modestly higher, while ARUN is showing substantial strength. 

Not all of the earnings reports were so upbeat, however. Firearms manufacturer Smith & Wesson (SWHC) released lackluster July-quarter financials and issued a weaker-than-anticipated outlook, citing high industry-wide inventories. SWHC stock is indicating a sharply lower opening this morning, as a result. The news is also weighing on shares of industry peer Sturm, Ruger & Company (RGR), albeit to a lesser extent. Investors took issue with the latest results and outlook from television set-top box maker TiVo (TIVO), as well. – 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 beat continues to go on. Specifically, the stock market, up for three weeks in a row, and with a solid gain on Monday, advanced further yesterday, gaining ground from the outset and largely maintaining that modest edge over the course of the trading session.

Specifically, the market was buoyed by solid gains in Europe, and by a somewhat mixed, but generally decent, report on July orders for durable goods. (This stellar overall increase was sparked wholly by a surge in aircraft orders.) This survey, which was issued before the commencement of trading on our shores, helped the major averages start the day nicely in positive territory. In fact, the Dow Jones Industrial Average moved up to an intraday record of just over 17,150 shortly after the market opened. The Standard and Poor's 500 Index, a more broadly configured equity composite, which rose above 2,000 on Monday, moved a bit further above that psychologically important level before too much time had elapsed, as well.

This latest advance took on some further strength after the release, at 10:00 AM (EDT), of August data on consumer confidence, which showed a modest additional rise. It seems as though improving labor conditions and, we think, the better stock market are making Americans a little more upbeat about their present state of affairs. This is the second composite reading above 90 in as many months. Just for comparison sake, this index had fallen below 50 in the depths of the recent recession. Also, this popular index had been below 80 early in the year.

However, the market couldn't build on those gains as the day wore on, and, in fact, some late profit taking set in, though the upturn was never in jeopardy. One factor helping to sustain the rally was that among the leading equity groups only the industrials, off slightly, and the interest-sensitive utilities (down more appreciably) ran counter the aggregate uptrend. On the other hand, there was strength in the energy stocks, the basic materials issues, and the health care equities, especially among that sector's larger-cap representatives. With big oil and the large pharmaceuticals in the lead, there continues to be some taste for the more conservative big-cap issues. 

That is not to say that the rally was not broad-based. Quite the contrary, as the Standard and Poor's Mid-Cap 400 and the small-cap Russell 2000 showed some welcome strength, as well, while the NASDAQ, after a halting start, gained moderately. All in all, it was a decent way for the bulls to hold their edge as the summer winds down. Indeed, as the final bell sounded, all of the major indexes were in the black, albeit notably less so than earlier in the day, with the Dow ending 30 point higher, while the S&P 500 gained two points, and the NASDAQ added 13 points. Importantly, the advance-decline ratio was highly positive, with twice as many Big Board stocks gaining as losing, while the balance was almost as favorable on the NASDAQ. The pullback late in the day, meantime, may have been occasioned, in addition to profit taking, by geopolitical concerns, as the situations in Ukraine and across the Middle East appear to be worsening by and large, although there is now an agreed-upon open-ended cease fire in Gaza. 

Going forward, meanwhile the market will need to contend with some key economic issuances, as well. On point, we will get data on revised GDP for the second quarter tomorrow morning. Initially, that broad economic measure was reported to have gained 4.0% in the recent quarter; a similar number is expected tomorrow. This report will be joined tomorrow morning by data on weekly and continuing jobless claims, and on Friday by data on personal income, personal spending, Chicago-area manufacturing, and consumer sentiment. This latter report will be furnished by the University of Michigan.  

As to the markets so far today, the leading averages in Asia were generally mixed overnight, as they are in Europe this morning, where the bourses in France and Germany are lower, while the FTSE 100 in London had earlier enjoyed a small rise. And on our shores, positive earnings numbers from Express, Inc. (EXPR) is helping our futures to show some modest strength ahead of the opening bell. - Harvey S. Katz 

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