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After the Close - The stock market opened higher today, and was able to build upon these gains throughout the afternoon. This type of ending is usually a positive indication going forward. Specifically, it shows traders remain committed to the rally, and expect further gains in the near future. All told, at the close of the session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had advanced 208 points (1.4%); the broader S&P 500 Index was up 21 points (1.3%); and the NASDAQ added on 45 points (1.3%). Market breadth was positive, as advancing stocks were ahead of decliners by just 2 to 1 on the NYSE. However, it should be noted that this showing was not as strong as it could have been, and suggests that there was some unevenness in the market, or even areas of weakness. For instance, traders were not overly interested in the riskier small-cap names today, as the Russell 2000 lagged the broader averages. The S&P Mid-Cap index also underperformed a bit. Meanwhile, a somewhat mixed market could also be seen by looking at the various market sectors. There were notable gains in the industrials, consumer, and technology names. But the basic materials issues actually declined, and the utilities, telecommunications, and energy sectors lagged.

Technically, the S&P 500 Index tested its 50-day moving average, located at 1,606 and found support at that level. It should be noted that this had been the case in earlier pullbacks in April and February, so it did not came as a complete surprise. Today’s advance extends yesterday’s move, and was encouraging.  For now, the bulls are still in control. Also, it is possible that there are even investors who missed some of the rally over the past few months, and are looking to enter on market dips, and this could be a source of future support.  However, from here, we will need to see the market hold its current level, or even move higher. The S&P 500 index could hit some resistance at 1,650 and it may take a few attempts for the market to make its way back to high ground around 1,675.

There was really just one major economic report released this morning, but it provided an important piece of news to investors and helped underpin the rally. Nonfarm payrolls rose by 175,000 in May, which was pretty much as expected, but not overly strong. Further, the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.6%, where many had looked for a flat reading. This suggests that while the economy is improving, is still needs help, and that help will likely come from the Fed. So for now, the game continues as planned. -  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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12:30 PM EDT - As we reach the midday hour on the East Coast, the major U.S. equity indexes, which started off the session in positive territory, are forcefully extending their intraday gains. As noted here earlier, the primary impetus behind today’s heavy buying was the issuance of U.S. employment and unemployment data this morning. The report on job creation (more below), though decent, was viewed by traders as not being strong enough to push the Federal Reserve to put the brakes on its current $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program. Over the last fortnight, investors have worried that the Fed will ease off on its accommodative monetary policies—and selling had picked up on Wall Street.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up in triple digits, having at one point earlier in the session surged by more than 200 points. The more than 1% gain for the index of 30 bellwether companies is being matched nearly stride for stride by the broader S&P 500 Index. The NASDAQ also is up nicely as well, but its advance is being held back a bit by a lethargic performance by technology stocks. Meanwhile, gains by the small-cap Russell 2000 and the S&P Mid-Cap 400 Index are not as formidable as their larger-cap brethren, perhaps suggesting that some investors—unnerved by recent selloffs—are still showing hesitation to add more risk to their equity portfolios.

The performances of the top-10 sectors would also suggest some risk-aversion remains in place. There is notable interest in more defensive consumer staples, healthcare, and utilities issues. Investors may feel that these sectors would hold up better if the economy were to soften. Still, that is not to say that investors are shying away from those groups most closely tied to the economy, as investors are buying industrial stocks, with notable attention being given to the aerospace/defense and railroad companies. Demand for the basic materials, telecommunications, and technology stocks is lackluster, and in some cases, actually faltering.

As noted, today’s monthly report on employment and unemployment was decent. Specifically, the nation added 175,000 jobs last month, just modestly above the consensus forecast. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate ticked a tenth of a percentage point higher to 7.6%, but that may be the product of more workers entering the labor force, which may be seen as a positive for the labor market. However, the fact that May marked the third consecutive month that nonfarm payrolls grew by less than 200,000—a level that many pundits believe needs to be reached for several months in a row for a sizable dent to be made in the unemployment rate—investors are acting like the report will make it harder for the Federal Reserve to ease off on its bond buying. This view has prompted the buying so far today, we think, which is reflected in the more than two-to-one lead advancing issues are holding over decliners on both the Big Board and the NASDAQ.

Looking ahead to the second half of the session, it would probably take a Herculean effort for the bears to erase the gains registered thus far today. However, if the last fortnight of trading has taught us anything, an answer by the bears can’t be ruled out, given the recent volatility in the market. Light trading volume Friday afternoons, which are commonplace between Memorial Day and Labor Day, also can produce some pronounced swings in trading. Stay tuned. -William G. Ferguson

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

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10:40 AM EDT - The benefits of the so-called Goldilocks economy seems to be at work this morning on Wall Street. Thus, after the Labor Department issued data this morning showing that the nation had created 175,000 jobs in May, just incrementally better than the consensus view, the market took off on another bullish run.

Indeed, after the futures had suggested a modestly higher opening, which, in fact, did occur, the market has seemingly gotten a second wind and is now strongly higher. Of note, as we reach the one-hour mark of the trading day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is now up by just over 160 points, making that 30-stock composite the clear winner thus far among the major averages. Also, the NASDAQ is up by 27 points and the Standard and Poor's 500 Index is better by 15 points. The small- and mid-cap indexes are also higher, albeit less aggressively so.

Meanwhile, gaining stocks hold a solid, but not spectacular three-to-two lead on the Big Board, while the advance/decline ratio on the NASDAQ is a more formidable two-to-one.

The big push is coming from the fact that the jobs report, while decent was not sufficiently strong to persuade the Federal Reserve from stepping off the bond-buying pedal, as some have been fearing. Our sense has been right along that the central bank will remain wholly supportive for a while longer and Wall Street seems to agree judging from the positive action in the market so far this morning.

Of note, as well, this was the third month in a row that non-farm payrolls had increased by less than 200,000 per month. That level would logically bring about some change in Wall Street's expectation regarding the Fed.  -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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Stocks to Watch from The Survey Earnings news is rather light today, though there are still a few reports out that investors should be aware of. Notably, shares of Quiksilver (ZQK) are down sharply ahead of the bell, after the action-sports related apparel and accessories company reported a surprising loss in the April period. The stock of ski area operator Vail Resorts (MTN) is also down ahead of the bell on earnings news. Conversely, shares of women’s apparel retailer Christopher & Banks (CBK) and medical supplies company Cooper (COO) are indicating higher openings this morning, as investors appeared pleased with the most recent financials from those two companies.

In other news, the stock of TiVo (TIVO) is plunging in pre-market trading, after the provider of set-top boxes and digital video recorders settled a patent litigation dispute with several companies. – 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 - Heightened volatility remained the name of the game on Wall Street yesterday, as a frenetic stock market retained all of its recent jitteriness and then some, as the bulls and the bears positioned themselves as best they could ahead of this morning's key release by the Labor Department on non-farm payrolls for May and the nation's unemployment rate (more below).

Stocks briefly started the session to the upside, as the Labor Department reported that initial jobless claims for the latest week had come in about as expected. But equities soon faltered anew, reaching the session's nadir around lunchtime. That is when the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled to a loss of some 115 points. On top of the prior session's 217-point plummet, that gave this 30-stock composite a combined deficit of more than 330 points over a session and a half.

However, as there had been no unpleasant surprises on the employment side early in the day, the bulls, who have been battered over the past fortnight following a multi-month succession of healthy gains, managed to regroup. In fact, by the close of the day, the buyers, while not fully back in force, had secured enough momentum to secure a nice comeback win for the day. All told, the Dow gained 80 points on the day, making for a turnaround of almost 200 points from trough to peak. Elsewhere, the Standard and Poor's 500 Index jumped 14 points and the NASDAQ rebounded by 23 points. The small-cap Russell 2000 Composite and the S&P 400 Mid-Cap Index, each relatively stronger than their large-cap counterparts throughout the day, continued that winning trend into the close, posting respective gains of 11 points and 14 points. Winning stocks also held the lead over declining issues, to the tune of almost four-to-one on the Big Board and by more than two-to-one on the NASDAQ.

The sharp reversals over the past couple of weeks, meantime, have principally evolved due to concerns that the Federal Reserve will soon put the brakes on its bond-buying efforts. Some, in fact, have been speculating that such a reversal in form could come as early as this month's FOMC meeting. We are skeptical on that count, believing that the central bank will want to see more in the way of confirming evidence that the economy can stand on its own--that is without the added prop of this unprecedented stimulus. Also, of concern, has been the sharp drop in stocks in Japan, where there is mounting skepticism about the ultimate success of that country's curative actions for its economy.

Meanwhile, back on the home front, the government has just reported that the nation added 175,000 jobs in May, which was just incrementally above the forecast increase of 165,000 positions. At the same time, the jobless rate inched up from 7.5% to 7.6% during the month. A flattish reading had been the general forecast. The equity futures, up slightly before the issuance, tacked on a few more points after the release, suggesting that equities could start the day nicely higher following the late-recovery yesterday. – Harvey S. Katz   

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