After The Close - Stocks tumbled in afternoon trading on profit-taking, erasing morning gains prompted by favorable economic data. At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 119 points, the S&P was down 13 points and the NASDAQ, which had been nicely higher, closed 18 points lower. Market breadth was more bearish than in a while, with declining stocks easily outnumbering advancers on both the Big Board and the NASDAQ.

It wasn’t the lack of good news from the business front that was lacking. Reports issued this morning showed an unexpectedly strong rise in new-home sales for May and a gain in consumer confidence in June. These positive indicators initially boosted stocks, but their staying power proved fleeting as investors turned a bit skittish with the Dow approaching another record at the 17,000 level.

Then, too, there are major geopolitical concerns in Ukraine and Iraq that are proving tough to get under control, and which may be increasing the fear of what lies ahead for investors. Reports today suggested Syrian warplanes killed insurgents in Iraq and, in Ukraine, there came word that 10 government soldiers were killed. It is hard to see where all of this is headed, and Wall Street doesn’t like the uncertainty.

This time, though, fresh violence in Iraq did not boost oil prices in New York trading, as crude fell $0.15 a barrel. The climb in oil prices over the past few weeks has boosted sentiment toward the energy sector, with the names of many oil-related shares hitting a series of 52-week highs. But investors took some money off the table today, with the energy sector proving a laggard.

However, the day’s cautiousness did show up in higher gold prices and the outperformance of utilities’ shares. In fact, utilities have been one of 2014’s leaders, given the decline in long-term interest rates since the beginning of the year and the cold weather last winter that boosted fuel demand. A dose of merger activity is helping too, with yesterday’s announcement that Wisconsin Energy (WEC) is buying Integrys (TEG).

Tomorrow brings the final revision to the nation’s first-quarter GDP, which is expected to show a 2.0% decline. A pickup in business conditions since has helped to lift the Dow and the S&P to new heights. But the concerns about troubles overseas against the backdrop of a not-inexpensive stock market caused some selling in Tuesday’s session. - Robert Mitkowski

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


12:05 PM EDT - The U.S. stock market got off to a somewhat sluggish start this morning, but is now advancing. At roughly noon in New York, all three of the major averages are in positive territory. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 18 points; the broader S&P 500 Index is ahead by four points; and the NASDAQ, which is assuming leadership, is rising 29 points. Market breadth indicates fairly broad support for equities, as gaining issues are outnumbering decliners on the NYSE. Strength can be found in quite a few market sectors. Specifically, the healthcare and technology names are performing quite well.  However, the basic materials and energy issues are off a bit, even though oil and gold prices are edging up slightly.

Overall, stocks continue to show resilience. After moving sideways for a few days, equities now seem to be pressing ahead. Notably, the NASDAQ is just points away from the 4,400 level, and back to 52-week high ground. This is important, as this technology index has many growth-oriented companies. Interest in these names highlights that speculative sentiment is likely still alive. In fact, many would argue that positive sentiment is a necessary feature of a true bull market rally. Similarly, we have seen the Russell 2000, a leading small-cap index, firm up nicely over the past month, and that too is encouraging.

Meanwhile, today’s economic news was largely constructive. New home sales reached an annualized rate of 504,000 in the month of May. This showing exceeded April’s figure, and was also quite a bit better than had been anticipated. Notably, shares of home builders are trading higher on the news. Elsewhere, the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index came in at 85.2 for the month of June. This reading, too, was better than had been expected. Tomorrow brings a few more economic reports. We get a look at durable goods orders for May, and the third and final estimate for first-quarter GDP.

While earnings news has been somewhat quiet, a few large companies have put out results today. Walgreens (WAG) shares are trading lower, after the drug store giant issued a disappointing report. Also, Carnival Corp. (CCL) is seeing its shares dip a bit, on weaker-than-expected guidance. Meanwhile, VertexPharmaceuticals (VRTX) is soaring on drug-related news. – 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 SurveyThere is some corporate news to be aware of today. Most notable, shares of Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX) are soaring ahead of the bell, after the biotechnology company released upbeat data from a late-stage clinical trial for its cystic fibrosis treatment. Elsewhere, on the earnings front, shares of restaurant operator Sonic Corp. (SONC) and semiconductor manufacturer Micron Technology (MU) are indicating slightly higher openings this morning, after the companies reported May-period results that pleased investors. On the other hand, May-quarter financials from drugstore operator Walgreen (WAG) did not garner a warm reception on Wall Street, and the stock is down modestly in the premarket, as a result. Finally, the stock of Elizabeth Arden (RDEN) is down notably ahead of the bell, after the cosmetics company unveiled a restructuring plan that did not impress investors. – 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 - It was a quiet summer-like Monday on Wall Street yesterday, as stocks, which had strung together a nice five-day rally last week, saw some incremental profit taking on a dull listless trading session, notable for some positive economic news and a succession of announced merger deals. Such upbeat tidings, though, could not break the session's lethargy and equities drifted lower for much of the session, in what was an unusually narrow trading band.

On point, the National Association of Realtors, a housing trade group, announced that sales of existing homes had perked up nicely in May, rising by somewhat more than expected 4.9%, to a seasonally adjusted 4.89 million annualized units. An increase to 4.75 million homes had been the consensus forecast. In April, sales had totaled 4.66 million annual units. Prices also rose in the latest month, while inventories likewise increased. A gradually improving labor market and an uneven pullback in mortgage rates in recent months have likely contributed to the spring thaw in housing.      

As to merger news, there was a good deal of it, as there has been for many Monday's thus far this year, and the increasing rate of corporate combinations seems to be having some positive effects on market behavior. Still, even with such favorable news and the solid housing figures, six straight sessions of stock market gains were apparently too much for the tired bulls to handle, and stocks, buoyed by a modest late charge, dipped just slightly, on balance. However, before that retreat, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard and Poor's 500 Index had each made one more attempt to forge yet another all-time record, but, in the end, fell just short of doing so.  

Meanwhile, earnings news was sparse, as it has been for the past few weeks, as we are still some three weeks, or so, away from the issuance of second-quarter profit reports. In one case, though, basic chemicals manufacturer, FMC Corporation (FMC) saw its shares retreat almost 5% on word that the concern had cut both its second-quarter and full-year outlook. Conversely, shares of  AbbVie Inc. (ABBV) rose slightly on modestly better profit guidance.

As to the final number for the day, we saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average ease by just 10 points; the Standard and Poor's 500 Index was off by less than a point, while the NASDAQ ended up by less than a point. The S&P Mid-Cap 400 Index fell nominally, in the meantime, while the small-cap Russell 2000 eased a bit more than that. All told, it was a lusterless and uninspiring, but not damaging, way to start the final full trading week of June.  

Looking ahead, meanwhile, this morning will see the release of pair of key economic reports at 10:00 (EDT). Specifically, the U.S. Conference Board will issue data on consumer confidence for June. A small rise is the forecast. Also, the Commerce Department will be releasing its monthly survey (for May) on sales of new homes. This is smaller and considerably more volatile market than that for existing homes, which was issued yesterday. The expectation is that a small increase in such sales was recorded last month. We also are due to get data on home prices from Case-Shiller. Such prices have been up 12% over the past year. The federal government's index has climbed by nearly 7% during that span, meantime.   

Finally, the new day brings news of markets overseas, where stocks in Asia were mostly higher overnight ahead of a presentation by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, while in Europe so far this morning the major bourses are pointing lower after the release of a downbeat business confidence survey in Germany, the Continent's biggest economic factor. Finally, on our shores, the futures are now mixed, with the S&P 500 Index futures just over two points lower, but with the NASDAQ futures now indicating a slightly higher opening when trading gets under way in about 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.