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After the Close - The U.S. stock market took a pause today, following yesterday’s sizable advance. At the close of the session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 20 points; the broader S&P 500 Index was ahead a point; but the technology-heavy NASDAQ was off by 14 points. Market breadth showed a divided market, as declining stocks outpaced advancers by a narrow margin on the NYSE. The weakness was a bit more pronounced on the NASDAQ. However, some equity sectors managed to make progress, as the energy stocks put in a constructive session. Select consumer names, largely in the food and beverage area, also advanced. In contrast, weakness could be seen in the financial issues.

Technically, the stock market has been quite choppy lately. However, it has also been very resilient, bouncing back after periods of weakness. Further, it has likely helped matters that investors have rotated into the defensive names, rather than abandoning equities entirely. Too, the lack of alternatives in the fixed-income markets has helped keep investors in stocks. Meanwhile, sentiment has been generally favorable. The VIX remains at very low levels, and we have seen little panic selling or pronounced profit taking on weaker days.

Meanwhile, traders received a few economic reports this morning. However, the results were uninspiring. Specifically, retail sales rose 0.1% in the month of April, while analysts had been looking for a bit stronger showing. Import and export prices showed little inflation in April. Further, business inventories increased 0.4% in March, which was a well-controlled reading.

Traders received a few earnings reports to sift through. For example, we recently heard from Rackspace Hosting (RAX). That technology issue was up sharply, following a better-than-expected report. After the closing bell today, we hear from such widely held companies as Fossil (FOSL) and Take-Two Interactive (TTWO). Elsewhere, in the M&A area, DIRECTV (DTV) shares were trading mixed today on speculation that a deal may be reached with AT&T (T- Free AT&T Stock Report). - 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 major U.S. equity indexes edged higher as the trading day opened, adding to the gains posted in yesterday’s impressive start to the week. Indeed, the spring in investors’ step appeared to be unfazed by the Commerce Department’s report that April retail sales fell short of expectations. In fact, sentiment was likely bolstered by the news that already strong March figures were revised upward to a gain of 1.5%, versus a previously reported 1.1% advance. Moreover, that month had marked the largest increase for consumer spending in four years.

But things began to falter as the morning wore on. After setting new intraday highs, both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 gave back most of their gains, each remaining on the positive side by only a small fraction at the noon hour in New York trading. Meanwhile, the tech-heavy NASDAQ, which had surged 1.8% on Monday, slipped about a quarter percent into the red.

A similar pattern was traced out early on by the European bourses. After a positive start, London’s FTSE, Germany’s DAX, and France’s CAC-40 all briefly dipped into the red in the first halves of their respective trading sessions, but managed to regain their footing as the day progressed. As the close of trading approached, however, stock prices were off their session peaks after a consumer confidence survey from Germany (the region’s largest economy) showed May’s numbers falling to their lowest point in over a year.  Still, this didn’t keep that country’s exchange from leading the charge up, with the DAX rising just over half a percentage point. The CAC-40 and FTSE weren’t too far behind though, each advancing about a quarter percent. The latter, it should be noted, closed at 6873, placing it just a stone’s throw from its record high of 6930, set way back in 1999. – 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 Survey First-quarter earnings season is winding down, but there are still reports trickling in that investors should be aware of, the most notable of which is from Elizabeth Arden (RDEN). Indeed, shares of the cosmetics company are plunging in the premarket due to a steep loss recorded in the March quarter. Other releases were more upbeat, however, and investors appear pleased with reports and updates from cloud computing and hosting company Rackspace (RAX) and drug distributor McKesson (MCK). Both stocks are indicating higher openings this morning, with RAX showing considerable strength. 

Elsewhere, shares of Keurig Green Mountain (GMCR) are up nicely in pre-market trading, after beverage giant Coca-Cola (KOFree Coca-Cola Stock Report) increased its stake in the coffee company to 16%, up from 10%. Finally, the stock of DIRECTV (DTV) is up modestly ahead of the bell, likely due to reports suggesting that telecommunications heavyweight AT&T (TFree AT&T Stock Report) is looking to acquire the satellite television provider. – 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 - Wall Street celebrated the day after Mother's Day with a strong rally that for one session, at least, threw some cold water on the old mantra of "sell in May and go away." 

On point, stocks started the session higher, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average racing out to an early 100-point gain. It then proceeded to stay there for just about the whole session, as the market scored a wire-to-wire win, to use a venerable sports phrase. All told, the Dow ended the latest session up an impressive 112 points; the Standard and Poor's 500 Index added 18 points, while the NASDAQ, on strength in a number of tech names, surged 72 points, or 1.8%. Even more impressive was the 27-point gain in the small-cap Russell 2000. That equated to an increase of 2.5%. 

Helping the market achieve this formidable gain was a pickup in merger activity, which was headlined by the proposal from Hillshire Brands (HSH) to buy Pinnacle Foods (PF) for about a 20% premium to Friday's closing price of $30.45 a share. Pinnacle holders, to no one's surprise, applauded the deal, and the stock rose nicely, gaining more than 13% on the session, although it did close off the day's high. It was another story for Hillshire, however, as that issue fell modestly in price, seemingly on concerns about the price of the proposed buyout.

Meanwhile, sentiment was lifted in our country by the better performances turned in overseas prior to our market's opening, along with optimism about the pending consolidation in the food industry. Also, after a number of false starts in recent weeks, the Dow rallied to an intraday high very early in the day, while the Standard and Poor's 500 Index galloped ahead to just shy of an all-time intraday high.

But, as indicated, the real action was in the NASDAQ, which was higher to the tune of better than 1.5% for much of the day, and the Russell 2000, the small-cap benchmark, which did even better, as we observed above. These two indexes had been under major pressure in recent weeks, suggesting a growing intolerance for risk. Yesterday's curative action was a clear signal that risk was in vogue once again, in spite of the continuing unsettled nature of the situation in Ukraine. In this vein, the VIX, often known as the fear gauge, fell almost 6% yesterday. That was another clear sign that the acceptance of risk was again on the rise.   

In other news items, there was little of note on the earnings front, as profit reporting season is fast winding down. Meanwhile, the business beat was also quiet yesterday. This will now change notably on the latter front over the course of the week, with a heavy flow of data over the next three days, including metrics on producer prices (where an increase of 0.2% is the consensus forecast), consumer prices (expectations are for a gain of 0.3%), weekly jobless claims (a flattish reading is the general view), industrial production and factory usage (little aggregate change is expected), and housing starts and building permits (where the consensus expectations are for formidable increases).

As to data just issued, the Commerce Department reported that retail sales increased by a scant 0.1% in April. That was materially less than the formidable and upwardly-revised gain of 1.5% in March, and was also well under the April expectation of an increase of 0.4%. Still, much of the data remain supportive, so it is likely that overall economic growth will increase and perhaps in a fairly big way as we head toward midyear. 

Finally, as we look at the overseas markets this morning we find that following our impressive rally yesterday that stocks in Asia were higher overnight, especially in Tokyo, while in Europe, the principal bourses are showing modest to more appreciable increases thus far this morning, led higher by the Frankfurt DAX. As to our equities, the futures are now showing some modest strength, with the Standard and Poor's 500 Index futures ahead by almost a point, while the NASDAQ futures are suggesting a gain on the order of some four points. - Harvey S. Katz

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