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After The Close - The stock market put in a volatile session today. The major averages managed to stage an advance in the afternoon, before selling off as the session closed. This type of trading possibly suggests some fatigue on the part of the bulls. At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 43 points (-0.3%); the broader S&P 500 Index lost eight points (-0.5%); and the tech-heavy NASDAQ shed six points (-0.2%). Market breadth was a bit negative, as declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE. The various market sectors retreated. There were declines in the consumer stocks and the financial issues. In contrast, there was some strength in the technology sector. Technically, the S&P 500 Index has delivered a strong performance lately, so a pause here is likely healthy. A slight pullback would allow some traders to take profits, while others could find new trades. The VIX closed a bit higher at just over 13 today. This reading is still quite low, but movement higher on this index, should it start to become more pronounced, may suggest rising apprehension. 

Traders largely shrugged off the selectively disappointing economic reports issued this morning. Specifically, initial jobless claims for the week ended May 11th rose to 360,000, which was a bit higher than analysts had forecast. The uptick here also puts this figure back above the widely-watched 350,000 mark. Meanwhile, weekly continuing claims came in a bit better, which may have helped matters. It should be noted that employment figures tend to be a bit erratic, so a single week’s numbers do not necessarily indicate larger problems, or a reversal of the progress made in this area. Elsewhere, traders received a benign CPI report, showing no signs of inflation. On the housing front, housing starts for the month of April were a bit disappointing, while monthly building permits increased. In other areas, the Philadelphia Fed’s report on economic activity in that region suggested some sluggishness.

There were a few corporate news items released today. In retail, Kohl’s (KSS) stock traded higher after that company delivered strong results. Things did not go as well for Wal-Mart (WMT - Free Wal-Mart Stock Report) as that issue headed lower on a weaker-than-expect earnings release. In technology, Cisco (CSCO - Free Cisco Stock Report) shares moved up sharply, after the networking giant put out decent set of numbers. - 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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12:00 PM EDT - Stocks are edging higher today, despite some disappointing economic news and less-than-expected earnings from retailing giant Wal-Mart (WMT - Free Wal-Mart Stock Report) this morning.

At noontime on the East Coast, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up eight points and the NASDAQ is 11 points to the good. Market breadth has turned modestly positive, as well, after being weak earlier.

The day started out with a surprising jump in initial weekly unemployment claims to a six-week high. The reading raised concerns about whether moderate, but persistent, gains in the job market will remain a pillar of support for the stock market. More encouraging, though, was that the less volatile four-week moving average still pointed to improving labor market conditions.

Also raising a caution flag was an unexpected decline in a Federal Reserve survey on manufacturing in the Philadelphia area. Yesterday, investors shrugged off word of a similar such slowdown in the New York region. Today’s discouraging business news is, so far, proving somewhat tougher to ignore.

Elsewhere, signals from the housing market were a bit mixed, too, with starts at their lowest level since November, but with building permits soaring. Taken together, though, indications are that the recovery in housing is still on track, and investors don’t appear too worried about the dip in housing starts.

Low borrowing rates remain highly supportive of housing’s comeback. Government agency Freddie Mac reported that mortgage rates for a 30-year loan averaged 3.51% in the latest week. That is up from 3.42% last week, as rates followed Treasury bond yields higher, but down from the 3.79% average rate of a year ago, and still highly attractive.

In corporate news, shares of Dow component Wal-Mart are off after the retail discount chain reported profits that were slightly shy of analysts’ estimates and issued a weaker-than-forecast outlook.

On the upside, Kohl’s (KSS) profits topped Wall Street’s views, and its stock is nicely higher, in spite of the company’s cautious tone with regard to near-term prospects.

Shares of Cisco Systems (CSCO - Free Cisco Stock Report) are another winner this session. The tech giant issued upbeat earnings after last night’s closing bell, and that strength is lifting the technology sector.

Meanwhile, a loser today is gold prices, which are off again after this morning’s Consumer Price Index showed inflation was falling.

Heading into afternoon trading, the stock market is proving resilient, but there may have been enough weakness in the day’s economic data to limit potential gains.   - Robert Mitkowski   
         
At the time this article was written, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned. 

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Stocks to Watch from The Survey Investors are going over several notable earnings reports today, including two from Dow-30 components. Networking equipment bellwether Cisco Systems (CSCOFree Cisco Stock Report), which reported April-quarter financials after the market closed yesterday, delivered solid results and an upbeat forecast. Its shares are surging ahead of the bell as a result. Other stocks moving higher in the premarket on earnings news include footwear company Sketchers (SKX) and retailer store operators Dillard’s (DDS) and Kohl’s (KSS). On the other hand, Wal-Mart Stores (WMTFree Wal-Mart Stock Report), the world’s largest retailer, has delivered disappointing April-period financials and issued a lackluster outlook, causing its shares to move slightly lower in the premarket.

Elsewhere, the good times continue to roll for shareholders of electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors (TSLA). Even after gaining more than 50% in value over the past five trading days, the stock is surging in the premarket, after the company’s founder and CEO, Elon Musk, announced plans to purchase $100 million of TSLA shares as part of a secondary offering. – Matthew E. Spencer

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's pauses are becoming shallower and less frequent by the day. To wit, after the equities eased off a bit in early trading yesterday, they then pushed forward by mid-session, eased back a touch late in the day, and finally got going again near the close. By the end of the trading day, the upward momentum was clearly back on the side of the bulls as the leading averages all posted moderate gains.

Specifically, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 60 points, to end the day at a record 15,276. That index and the other key averages, notably the Standard and Poor's 500 Index, which added eight points, the NASDAQ, which tacked on nine points, and the Russell 2000, which climbed three points, were helped by the ability of the stock market to look beyond some negative economic news.

Here, for example, the Commerce Department yesterday morning reported that both industrial production and capacity utilization at the nation's factories had fallen notably in April. Also, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that manufacturing activity in the Empire State had surprisingly contracted last month. On the other hand, data out yesterday also noted that confidence among homebuilders was up more than expected, while inflation remained tame, with the Producer Price Index falling sharply for a second month in a row, on lower food and energy prices. The ability of the stock market to rise on reports that were less than compelling, on average, especially the issuances on industrial production, factory usage, and New York State manufacturing, is a hallmark of a long-running bull market.

Now, Wall Street has several additional business metrics to digest, with reports just out on consumer prices, housing starts, and building permits. Of note, and not surprisingly, the Consumer Price Index also fell last month, just as the companion Producer Price Index, issued yesterday, as noted, had done. At the same time, we saw some backtracking in housing starts in April, but a jump in building permits, which are more of a leading indicator, last month. Finally, initial jobless claims rose in the latest week.

As to other news, yesterday saw a key diversion in the performance of two high-tech icons, with Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) shares moving in opposite directions. The former, which until very recently had been the biggest stock in terms of market value, continued to falter, losing more than $14 a share on the session, while Google shot up further, and is now trading comfortably above $900 a share.

Meanwhile, after the close of trading yesterday, Dow-30 component Cisco Systems (CSCOFree Cisco Stock Report) posted better-than-expected results, and that stock, which was already trading near a 52-week high, looks as if it will gap higher at the opening this morning, indicating more than a 10% rise in the process. However, Wal-Mart Stores (WMTFree Wal-Mart Stock Report) missed its sales and earnings targets, and that stock is indicated a bit lower in the pre-market.

As to the equity futures, they are suggesting a mixed opening, after the markets in Asia and Europe ended up performing unevenly overnight.

At the time of this article's writing, the author had positions in CSCO.