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After The Close - The U.S. stock market put in a weak session today, but managed to finish off its lows. At the close of the day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 138 points; the broader S&P 500 Index was down 12 points; and the technology-heavy NASDAQ was lower by 29 points. Too, the Russell 2000, a small-cap index, encountered a good deal of selling, suggesting that traders were feeling risk averse. Market breadth was decidedly negative today, as declining issues outnumbered advancers by a wide margin on the NYSE and the NASDAQ. All of the major market sectors lost ground. The basic materials issues were especially weak. The consumer issues traded notably lower, as well. Meanwhile, some relative strength was apparent in the high-yielding utility issues, which tend to act as a safe haven in turbulent markets.

Technically, the market was unable to extend yesterday’s advance, and this suggests a lack of confidence on the part of the bulls. Stocks continue to take one step forward, and then one step back, making any real progress difficult to achieve. The S&P 500 Index is now back to near its 50-day moving average, located at 1,868. Hopefully for the bulls, this level will provide support, as it has on several occasions in the recent past.

Meanwhile, traders received no important economic news today, and the lack of information probably did not help matters. But, things should pick up on tomorrow, with the release of the minutes from the FOMC’s April 30th meeting.

Meanwhile, a number of major retailers reported their results. Needless to say, traders were unimpressed. Specifically, Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS) stock moved sharply lower, after that company issued weak results and offered disappointing guidance. Urban Outfitters (URBN) put out soft results, too, sending that stock lower. Also, Staples (SPLS) shares plunged after the office retailer issued its metrics and outlook. - 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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2:45 PM EDT - Just one day after the stock market had managed to extend its modest winning streak, albeit somewhat gingerly and selectively, equities have again turned notably lower, suggesting that perhaps there is some life left in that well-worn phrase "Sell in May and go away."

To wit, after the market opened measurably lower this morning and built upon those early losses to where the Dow Jones Industrial Average had sunk to a 100-point loss by mid-morning, stocks stabilized toward the noon hour in New York and seemed to get a second wind as the lunch hour fast approached.  

However, those better feelings proved short-lived, as concerns about lackluster earnings in the retail sector and more to the point, some conflicting thoughts about the housing market and interest rates combined to unsettle investors as the afternoon commenced.

Specifically, Charles Plosser, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia opined that the housing market fundamentals remained sound, while William Dudley, President of the New York Fed noted that housing had fallen so far that it will take time to repair all of the damage earlier inflicted. As such, regional Fed President Dudley intoned that the central bank would be slow to raise interest rates once it began the process, but Mr. Plosser suggested the possible need to lift rate earlier if growth picks up.

Such talk seemed to further rattle an already nervous stock market, which now shows the Dow Jones Industrial Average off by 160 points, the Standard and Poor's 500 Index lower by 16 points, and the NASDAQ down by 42 points. Each of these large-cap indexes is off by about one percentage point. On the other hand, the small-cap Russell 2000 Composite is now in the red by 19 points, or almost 2%. It is not a bright day on Wall Street, notwithstanding the bright sunshine out all over New York City. - Harvey S. Katz

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 - Things got off to a weak start in early trading today. In lock-step fashion, the major U.S. equity indexes all opened near their Monday closing levels and then proceeded to make a virtual bee-line downward until about 10:00 AM (EDT). They then recovered about half the lost ground, but have weakened anew in the past few minutes with the Dow Jones Industrials, S&P 500, and NASDAQ all showing declines hovering around the half-percent mark at the noon hour in New York.

A good part of the blame this time around is going to the retailers. Among the hardest hit were Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS), whose shares slid as much as 17% after weaker-than-expected earnings and reductions in its full year top- and bottom-line forecasts. Also taking a big blow was office supply retailer Staples (SPLS). Its stock fell 12% after it reported a 10% drop in profits and guided toward lower sales in the current quarter.

Elsewhere, shares of TJX Companies (TJX), which operates the T.J. Maxx and Marshalls chain stores, fell more than 7% after it announced lower-than-expected revenues for its latest quarter.

One notable exception among this lot was home-improvement giant Home Depot (HD -Free Home Depot Stock Report), whose stock led the blue chip Industrials with a gain of about 3%. Investors were apparently willing to overlook disappointing results in the latest quarter when management cited strong sales in May.

Taking a quick look across the pond, the European markets also started their respective trading days near Monday’s closing levels and, after a quick dip, largely spent the rest of their sessions trying to claw their way back into positive territory.

London’s FTSE fared worst among the lot, mostly grinding lower throughout the day and closing with a decline of over half a percentage point. France’s CAC-40 did only fractionally better, while Germany’s DAX managed to limit losses to about a quarter percent. - 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 Earnings season has gotten a second wind, as April-period results are starting to flow in at a brisk pace. Retailers, many of which have fiscal years that end in January, are in the spotlight today, headlined by The Home Depot (HDFree Home Depot Stock Report). Indeed, HD stock is down modestly ahead of the bell, after the world’s largest home-improvement retailer reported adjusted April-period results that missed the mark, as the spring selling season got off to a slow start due, in part, to lingering inclement weather. Management’s guidance was essentially unchanged, however. Although investors were not thrilled with The Home Depot’s results, they were certainly not the worst of today’s batch of reports. Indeed, shares of athletic equipment retailer Dicks Sporting Goods (DKS), apparel and accessories seller Urban Outfitters (URBN), discount retailer The TJX Companies (TJX), office supplies store Staples (SPLS), and telecommunications company Vodafone Group (VOD) are all indicating lower openings this morning on earnings news, with SPLS and DKS showing considerable weakness.

One of the few bright spots came from restaurant operator Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (RRGB), and its stock is up notably in pre-market trading, as a result. – 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 - Yesterday proved to be a rather strong session to start the week for Wall Street, although it might not have seemed that way to look at several of the major equity averages. To wit, the Dow Jones added a mere 21 points. Now, that wasn't bad, of course, but it certainly was not something to make the headlines. The seven-point gain in the Standard and Poor's 500 Index also was not in the least noteworthy.

However, the smaller and tech laden indexes, notably the Russell 2000 and the NASDAQ, told a far different story. Of note here, the former gained nearly 12 points, while the NASDAQ jumped 35 points. In all, the Russell 2000 added just over a percentage point, while the tech-heavy NASDAQ rose almost that much in percentage terms. Hence, for one day, at least, there was a return to a tolerance for risk. 

Helping the stock market to extend last week's late gains was a recovery in the tech sector, with shares of not only old-line tech issues doing well, but also shares of newer names and stocks in the biotech sector. The social-media stocks likewise did quite well, including the shares of Facebook (FB), which added just over 2% on the day.

As to news, yesterday, there was little on the economic front of note, and a similar situation will prevail today. That paucity of news will gradually end tomorrow, however, when the Federal Reserve will issue the minutes from its last FOMC meeting. That issuance, which can be a market mover, will come out in the afternoon.

Then, on Thursday, we will get the weekly releases on jobless claims and continuing unemployment claims. A modest rise in such filings, following last week's surprising drop in weekly claims, is the expectation. We also are scheduled to receive reports that day on sales of existing homes, where a nominal uptick for the latest month is the forecast. Additionally on Thursday, the leading indicators for April are due out. The indicators had surged by 0.8% in March; a rise of 0.5% is the expectation for April.

Finally, on Friday, the Commerce Department will issue data on sales of new homes. This category, a far more volatile one than for existing homes, is forecast to show a sizable jump in April following March's disquieting sharp decline. Then, there is the continuing flow of earnings reports, which now are coming out mostly from companies with April ending quarters, notably retailers.

On this count, we have already heard from home improvement retailer and Dow-30 component Home Depot (HD - Free Home Depot Stock Report) this morning, and the results at that giant concern did little to cheer investors, and that quality issue is suggesting a slightly lower opening. But things were far worse at Staples (SPLS), and that office supplies retailer is showing a more sizable pre-market decline indication. Finally, we saw food processing icon Campbell Soup (CPB) report its quarterly metrics yesterday, to few cheers, as that issue ticked a bit lower, after the company reduced its full-year guidance, although fiscal second-quarter had topped estimates.

Finally, looking at the market this morning, we saw a mixed session overnight in Asia and some slight improvement in Europe thus far this morning. And on our shores, our equity futures are suggesting a slightly lower opening, as early nominal gains have been overcome. - Harvey S. Katz     

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