After the Close - After a nifty, but selective, brief push by the bulls in the first hour of trading, on some semi-encouraging news from Europe (more below), the bears quickly took hold of the action and by the midday hour the major U.S. equity indexes had erased the early gains. The pullback was extended as the day progressed, with some dour reports from the technology sector raising concerns about the health of the domestic economy and second-quarter earnings season. At the final bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the NASDAQ, and the broader S&P 500 Index were 83, 29, and 11 points lower, respectively. Declining issues led advancers by a more than two-to-one ratio on both the Big Board and the NASDAQ. 

Technology stocks were under pressure after a few profit warnings from the sector raised concerns about the health of the group and the overall U.S. economy. (Though no economic news was released today, last week’s reports on the labor market and the manufacturing and services areas suggest that the domestic economy is slowing again.) Of note today, were dour outlooks from chipmakers Applied Materials (AMAT) and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). Applied Materials said that it expects to fall short of its third-quarter and full-year earnings estimates, while Advanced Micro Devices slashed its second-quarter revenue guidance because of weaker sales in Europe and China. Stocks of both technology companies finished in the red today. Shares of heavyweights Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), International Business Machines (IBM - Free IBM Stock Report), Intel (INTC - Free Intel Stock Report), and Microsoft (MSFT - Free Microsoft Stock Report) were also weaker.

The technology names had some companionship in negative territory today. Other laggards included the basic materials, industrials, and energy groups. Those sectors that are most closely tied to the global economy were the hardest hit in the latest session. Within the basic materials space, precious metals, aluminum, and chemicals stocks were weak. In energy, the stocks of oil and coal companies struggled, while construction and agricultural machinery manufacturers also weighed on the industrials.

Meanwhile, the news from the other side of the Atlantic was a bit better today. The major European bourses moved higher on hopes that Germany’s Constitutional Court will swiftly approve the European Union’s new bailout plan and budget rules. The plan, which was announced a few weeks ago, would allow for bailout funds to be directly routed to struggling European banks, particularly in Spain and Italy. Both the yields on Spain’s and Italy’s bonds fell today.

Elsewhere, the continued worries about the global economy and the strength of the dollar, particularly versus the euro, were behind today’s pronounced selling in the commodities markets. The stronger greenback makes commodities less attractive in overseas markets. The two most closely followed commodities, gold and oil, were down sharply. Corn, oats, hogs, and lumber futures were also well into the red. In fact, the winners were hard to find on both the New York Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade today.   - William G. Ferguson

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


2:45 PM ET - Wall Street is now suffering a classic reversal. Specifically, after the Dow Jones Industrial Average had raced off to a better-than-90-point gain at the opening this morning, on some optimism that Germany's top court would approve the euro zone's new bailout fund, equities quickly lost their edge. Indeed, that hope, coupled with some retracement in Spain's debt yield, to back below the unsustainable 7% level, had fueled early hopes that the U.S. stock market's three-day decline would not reach a fourth session in a row.

As noted, those hopes soon faded later, in large part on warnings by a succession of companies that earnings would not meet expectations for the recently ended quarter. Armed with such pronouncements, the market's gains evaporated, with the Dow then for a time moving back and forth between a slightly positive reading and a nominally lower move.

Unfortunately for the bulls, the market has apparently given up hopes--at least for now--that it will reverse course again and head higher toward the close. In fact, stocks are selling off rather sharply at this time. In all, as we approach the final hour of trading, we find that the Dow is off by 105 points; the NASDAQ is lower by 30 points; and the S&P 500 Index is in the red by a dozen points. With economic news generally sparse, and with earnings season only now starting to ramp up, the paucity of news could well elevate the overall level of market volatility this week. We will see what this all means for the trading days ahead. Stay tuned.  – Harvey S. Katz

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


12:30 PM ET - The U.S. stock market opened notably higher today, then lost all the early gains and even moved into negative territory. However, it is now edging selectively into the black.

Once again, traders on our shores may be taking their cue from mixed international news. In Asia, the major markets put in a weak session overnight. This may have to do with the release of a mixed trade balance report in China, showing strong exports, but weaker-than-anticipated imports. In contrast, the European bourses put in a much better session.  News that a plan has been reached to help Spain’s banks, and a slightly lower yield on that nation’s 10-year notes, are likely helping lift sentiment on the Continent. Nonetheless, the euro is off today. The Euro is now at $1.22 against the dollar, which is a 52-week low. Importantly, the weakness in the foreign currency markets is probably hurting commodity prices. Oil is lower by about 1%, now at just under $85 a barrel, and that may well be hurting related equities.

At just past noon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 22 points (0.2%); the S&P 500 Index is lower by one point ( -0.1%); and the NASDAQ is down eight points (-0.3%). The tone is not overly negative, as declining issues are just slightly ahead of advancers on the NYSE. There is some weakness apparent in the energy, healthcare, and technology names. However, the utility and consumer non-cyclical issues are advancing.

Technically, the recent pullback in the S&P 500 Index is not cause for too much concern, in our view. Trading volumes have been light, and the move lower follows a few strong days, so some profit taking is to be expected.

There was no notable economic news released in the United States today. This may also be contributing to a lackluster trading session. Tomorrow, we will get a look at more widely watched reports, such as the trade gap.

Meanwhile, the second-quarter earnings season has kicked off with the Alcoa (AA Free Alcoa stock report) release. The aluminum giant posted figures that essentially matched expectations. However, Wall Street was not too excited about the report, as this issue is trading lower.  In the technology area, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is seeing its stock slip, after the company issued disappointing guidance. Elsewhere, in the troubled coal industry, Patriot Coal (PCX) shares are off sharply, on news that that company will seek bankruptcy protection. Shares of James River Coal (JRCC) are sharply lower, as well.

At the time of this article's writing, the author had a position in Alcoa (AA).


Stocks to Watch from The Survey Investors appeared fairly pleased with aluminum maker Alcoa’s (AAFree Alcoa Stock Report) second-quarter results, which it reported after the market closed yesterday. The stock is modestly higher in pre-market trading this morning. On the other hand, shares of Helen of Troy (HELE) are trading sharply lower in the premarket, after the provider of hair- and foot-care products reported weaker-than-expected May-quarter results. Its forward-looking guidance also fell short of investors’ expectations. Too, the stock of PriceSmart (PSMT) is lower in pre-market trading on news that the operator of warehouse club stores in Latin America and the Caribbean had a lackluster May quarter. In more earnings-related news, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), a leading maker of integrated circuits, said that its second-quarter revenues would likely come in lower than previously anticipated due to a weak consumer spending environment and softer-than-expected sales in China and Europe. Here, too, the shares are indicated to open lower.

Finally, the stock of Beazer Homes (BZH) is down in pre-market trading, after the homebuilder announced a large stock offering, saying it would use the proceeds for potential land acquisitions. – 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 stock market started the new week off on a negative note yesterday, as concerns over rising debt yields in Europe, principally in Spain, worries about the pace of U.S. economic growth in the wake of last Friday's weak jobs report, and some understandable angst ahead of second-quarter earnings season combined to take the measure of the bulls.

In truth, though, the latest setback was modest, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 36 points and the tech-heavy NASDAQ shedding less than six points. All told, the latest downturn, while the third in succession for the stock market, was a minimal affair, and one that was a lot less steep than Friday's measurable reversal.

As for the economy, there is a paucity of news this week, with just tomorrow's report on the international trade gap for May, and Friday's scheduled release of June's Producer Price Index report breaking up the monotony. As to earnings, aluminum maker and Dow-30 component Alcoa (AA - Free Alcoa Stock Report) led the way after the stock market closed yesterday afternoon with a slightly better report than had been forecast. Expectations were for a slight loss in the second quarter, but the aluminum giant, instead, reported essentially breakeven results, and the stock ticked up nominally in after hours trading. Expectations are that it will start the new day several pennies a share to the upside. As for profit expectations, they are not especially high for the quarter, although we do note that there have not been a particularly large number of earnings warnings released in recent weeks. So that may suggest that the market's recent pessimism is too high. We'll see.

As to other news, the European bourses are tracking a bit higher this morning, as bond yields in Spain, which had again risen above 7% yesterday, have come down a little, and are now indicated a touch below that generally perceived unsustainably high rate. Meanwhile, Germany's Constitutional Court will consider whether Europe's new bailout plan and budget rules are compatible with national law. This will be a telling ruling, as it could well indicate just how far the leading EU nation will go in helping to tackle the euro zone's festering economic problems. And how much Germany does will likely influence how much the other stronger nations in that region will undertake as well.

At the same time, news out of China was bleak, as data showed that import growth in the world's second largest economy had slowed notably in June. Shares in that country fell overnight on this dour news. China is Europe's largest trading partner, so a falloff in imports would clearly hurt the euro zone. It would be a negative for our country as well, as we trade heavily with that maturing economic powerhouse.       

As to the news on our shores, the U.S. equity futures, which started the day to the downside, then perked up nicely until a few minutes ago, have since pared those earlier gains somewhat. Still, at this time, with less than an hour to go before the start of the new trading day, the futures are suggesting that we will open the upcoming session just incrementally to the upside. – Harvey S. Katz

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