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After The Close - U.S. stocks and the major indexes moved in a mixed fashion throughout Wednesday, the last full session of this holiday-shortened week. Investors were ostensibly collecting some profit after yesterday’s record-setting session, as well as responding to some economic updates. On that front, while initial weekly jobless claims and consumer sentiment were encouraging, a decrease in durable goods orders gave credence to sellers. Accordingly, non-cyclical consumer goods were one of only three market sectors to post an aggregate loss today. Losses there, as well as technology and utilities, were offset by gains in the energy, telecommunications, and basic materials arenas.

Meanwhile, minutes from the Federal Reserve’s October 31-November 1 summit were released. While near-term rate hikes remain likely, the transcripts revealed a mostly optimistic outlook. The central bank was markedly leery regarding the rising financial markets. A lowering of corporate taxes would help to breathe new life into the still-bullish market, of course, but concerns have mounted, albeit slightly at this point, that there may be an equity market bubble that reveals itself in 2018.

As for oil, U.S. crude rose 2.1%, to a two-and-a-half-year high, on Wednesday. Falling domestic stockpiles and the recent disruption of the Keystone pipeline both contributed to the bullish sentiment. Next week, traders will be keenly watching for updates from OPEC, which meets to potentially ratify an expansion of its production limit through 2018.

By the final minutes of trading, the S&P 500 had risen to just of its breakeven line. The Dow was unable to mount a similar comeback, though it had improved somewhat from its midday lull. The NASDAQ 100 and Russell 2000 fared slightly better in the second half of the day, with each hovering above even as the closing bell approached. The large-cap indexes, despite today’s mixed showing, all sit comfortably higher than they were at the end of last week.

Looking forward, elevated valuations will continue to put pressure on the market, which need an injection of optimism in the form of the tax reform, an extended drilling accord from OPEC, and more favorable outlook from the Federal Reserve. Stay tuned and, in the meantime, we wish all of our readers a Happy Thanksgiving. – Robert Harrington

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

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12:30 PM EST - The stock market is putting in a mixed showing this morning, as traders prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday. As we pass noon in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 68 points; the broader S&P 500 Index is off three points; while the technology heavy NASDAQ is ahead nominally. Market breadth is slightly positive, as advancers are just s ahead of decliners on the NYSE. However, the major equity groups are mixed. The energy, basic materials, and telecommunications issues are pressing ahead, while technology and consumer names are lagging.

Meanwhile, traders received a number of economic reports this morning. Specifically, initial jobless claims came in at 239,000 for the week of November 11th, which was in line with expectations. Durable goods orders slipped 1.2% in the month of October, where a slight increase had been anticipated. Finally, the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment figure for November was finalized at 98.5, which was a solid reading. This afternoon, the FOMC releases the minutes from its most recent meeting.

Elsewhere, a handful of corporations posted their financial reports over the past 24 hours. Among the big names, shares of Deere & Co. (DE) are trading nicely higher, after the manufacturer of earthmoving equipment posted encouraging results. Things did not go as well for Salesforce.com (CRM). Shares of the technology company have lost some ground on concerns about the outlook.

Technically, the stock market continues to make progress. It remains to be seen if a rally is in store through the holiday season. - 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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Before The Bell - The stock market, an unimposing performer over the past couple of weeks, threw caution to the wind yesterday, as stocks roared ahead ultimately fashioning a wire-to-wire win. All the key averages, meantime, started the day strongly higher, with the Standard and Poor's 500 Index soaring above 2,600 for the first time ever, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average put in a triple-digit point gain from the outset. The NASDAQ, Wall Street's best performer so far this year, having entered the latest session holding a year-to-date increase of 26%, led the charge higher yet one more time.  

Behind the early thrust into record ground was a rally in tech shares, which helped to lift the entire market. Investors were buoyed, particularly, by reports from Corporate America. Leading the early charge in tech were shares of Dow components Apple Inc. (AAPL - Free Apple Stock Report) and Microsoft (MSFT - Free Microsoft Stock Report). Buoying the market as well were expectations for a strong Christmas selling season. The nation's brick and mortar stores will be open early this Friday, for their annual Black Friday shopping event. Given the strength of the economy and the stock market, and the relentless rise in both incomes and real estate prices, the holiday season figures to be a good one.

There also is the economy, where yesterday morning, the National Association of Realtors, a large trade group, reported that sales of existing homes had risen by 2.0% last month. The latest survey was this sector's strongest since early this past summer, but continued supply shortages led to fewer closings on an annual basis for the second time in as many months. All told, sales rose to 5.48 million on an annual basis. That report, coupled with solid gains in housing starts and building permits in October suggests that the nation's home market remains a pivotal source of strength.   

Meanwhile, there is earnings, where, for the most part, the companies now are reporting results for the three months ending on October 31st. Here, a pair of food processing concerns weighed in with their latest metrics earlier yesterday morning. Specifically, we saw a poor report from soup maker Campbell Soup (CPB). That company issued disappointing metrics for its latest quarter and warned about the current three months. The issue, which had rebounded somewhat over the past week, tumbled almost 10% after the release. Conversely, shares of Hormel (HRL) jumped on a quarterly earnings beat.

On balance, though, the day was a good one to be long equities, as the market continued to roll higher, with all 10 of the major equity groups pressing higher throughout the session. Breaking things down as the session moved into its final stages, there were about twice as many stocks moving higher on the day as lower, while all 10 of the major equity groups still were on the plus side of the ledger, led by technology, healthcare and basic materials. Telecoms, utilities, and consumer non-cyclical issues were also higher, but lagging, with the last group undoubtedly held in check by the sharp loss in Campbell Soup.

All told, at the close, with bond yields heading lower, the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the session ahead by 161 points; the S&P 500 Index ended in the plus column by 17 points, while failing to finish above 2,600; and the NASDAQ concluded matters ahead by 72 points. The Russell 2000 also pressed forward on the day. All in all, it was a solid win for the bulls, as we get ready for the Thanksgiving Day holiday and a shortened session on Friday. Going into the weekend, the big story is likely to be the Black Friday sales event, which we think will be fairly positive.  

Looking out at a new day, we see that stocks were higher in Asia overnight, while in Europe, the major bourses are so far trading in more mixed fashion after solid gains on Tuesday. Elsewhere, oil, a gainer yesterday, is moving up sharply thus far this morning on a disruption in a Canadian pipeline, while Treasury yields, off in dealings in the latest session, are now heading higher. Finally, the U.S. futures market shows that equities are pointing out to a slightly better start when trading resumes at 9:30 AM (EST). In all, as we look out at a new day, we want to extend our best wished for a happy, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving holiday.   - Harvey S. Katz, CFA 

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