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After the Close - The U.S. stock market got off to a decent start this morning, and managed to even build on those gains through much of the afternoon. For the most part, the bulls sustained their buying campaign, and today’s rally was not used as a selling opportunity. In bear markets, regretful longs often look for market bounces to exit positions, which prevents the market from making any sustained advance. But, this was not the case for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Thus, at the close of the session, the Dow finished up just 16 points; the broader S&P 500 Index added on three points; and the NASDAQ, which again showed leadership, was up 30 points. The strength exhibited on the NASDAQ lately is notable. However, the other averages, such as the Dow, have not been keeping pace, and that divergence is worth noting. Market breadth was mildly favorable today, as advancers outweighed decliners on the NYSE.

Most of the market sectors made progress, with leadership in the technology issues. The Internet stocks, in particular, did quite well. The consumer names also made progress. In contrast, the energy stocks were off a bit, as the large integrated oil and gas companies traded lower. The price of oil, which has rallied lately on fears about stability in the Middle East, retreated slightly today, and that may have contributed to some of the weakness in these issues.

Technically, the S&P 500 Index is currently looking for support. However, it is unclear if current efforts to move the market higher from here can hold. It should be noted that the S&P 500 Index attempted to rally above its 50-day moving average a few days ago, but that effort was followed by a selloff. It would seem that with the earnings season now over, a catalyst might be needed to convince traders that higher equity prices are warranted. The possibility of a less accommodative monetary policy from the Fed and higher bond yields does not help.

Meanwhile, investors received a few encouraging economic reports this morning. First, the weekly initial jobless claims came in at 331,000, showing continued progress. Generally, claims below 350,000 indicate that the jobs situation is getting better. Further, second-quarter GDP was revised upward to 2.5% from 1.7%, which was encouraging. Some of the good news this morning may have been behind today’s rally, even though some traders may feel that it might suggest that the Fed will cut back on its asset purchases even sooner. In the corporate earnings arena, Campbell Soup (CPB) put out decent profits, but the top line was a bit lighter than some had expected, and that may have caused the stock to slip a bit. - 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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12:15 PM EDT -Stocks are trading nicely higher today on favorable economic data. Around noontime on the East Coast, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 79 points and the NASDAQ is 41 points to the good, or proportionately much better than the Dow. Market breadth is broadly positive, as well.

The catalyst for the upbeat tone is this morning’s release of better-than-expected news on second-quarter GDP. Economists expecting an upward revision got even more than they had hoped for with a substantial 2.5% reading. That sort of progress is much more notable than the 1.1% GDP advance registered in the first quarter, offering greater promise for corporate earnings if the level can be sustained. Meantime, the weekly report on initial unemployment claims from the Labor Department was also favorable.

These positives pushed to the back burner, at least for the moment, a litany of worries about possible U.S. military action against Syria, the likelihood of less monetary stimulus soon on the part of the Federal Reserve, and another potentially debilitating looming fight in Congress over raising the debt ceiling.

As for the stock market’s various sectors, the telecom group is faring especially well, spearheaded by renewed talk of a possible blockbuster $100 billion-plus buyout of Vodaphone’s (VOD) stake in Verizon Wireless by Dow-30 component Verizon (VZ - Free Verizon Stock Report). 

Tech stocks are also faring better than most, with shares of Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), and Facebook (FB) turning in good performances.

Lagging, in terms of sectors, is the energy group. Oil prices are a bit lower today after a recent run to over $110 a barrel. It seems that actions being contemplated regarding what to do about Syria are not imminent, and may rather occur within a week or two. That has taken the heat off oil prices and temporarily dampened sentiment toward oil producers, such as France’s Total (TOT), whose stock is down fractionally today after hitting a series of 52-week highs recently.

Among individual stocks, Guess (GES) is moving up on extra heavy volume, after the apparel maker reported very strong earnings.

On the down side, shares of Campbell Soup (CPB) are headed lower following a mixed earnings report that saw the company fall short of revenue expectations. Campbell’s has been attempting to make use of acquisitions to boost its top line in recent years.

Heading into afternoon trading, stocks are still enjoying the bounce provided this morning’s upwardly revised GDP report. -Robert Mitkowski

At the time this article was written, the author did not have a position in any of the companies mentioned-

Stocks to Watch from The SurveyInvestors are going over a few more earnings reports today, mainly from retailers. The big winner appears to be apparel company Guess (GES), which has announced better-than-expected July-period results, causing its stock to soar in pre-market trading. On the other hand, shares of home-goods retailer Williams-Sonoma (WSM), grocer The Fresh Market (TFM), and packaged foods company Campbell Soup (CPB) are all down modestly ahead of the bell on earnings news.

However, the big news this morning is out of the telecommunications industry. Indeed, Vodafone Group (VOD) said that it is in talks with partner Verizon Communications (VZFree Verizon Stock Report) about selling its 45% stake in their joint venture, Verizon Wireless, to the U.S.-based carrier. The price tag would likely exceed $100 billion. Investors on both sides of the possible transaction applauded the news, and shares of VOD and VZ are trading nicely higher in the premarket 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.  

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Before The Bell - Yesterday, the stock market regained some of the ground lost the day before, as investors apparently figured that the deteriorating situation in Syria might not lead to a long and drawn out attempt at fixing things over there by the West. In truth, such a conclusion is mere speculation, and the fact remains that the United States is mulling military action against that warring nation, and no one knows where such possible actions could lead. Thus, even with yesterday's partial equity market reversal, Wall Street is still on edge about this pending international matter and uncertainties regarding future Federal Reserve actions on the monetary front. Throw in conflicting signals being given off by our economy and the elevated valuations in the market and we are likely to continue undergoing some scattered profit taking in the days to come.

Meanwhile, in the latest day's action, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which had been up modestly for most of the day, took off in late trading, at one point netting a gain of some 90 points. However, just before the close a sense of caution reemerged and that blue-chip index ended the session up by just 48 points, while the Standard and Poor's 500 Index added four points. The tech-heavy NASDAQ, meantime, climbed 15 points, after an especially sharp decline the day before. Yesterday's gains extended, but just barely, to the small- and mid-cap arena. Overall, the energy stocks were among the day's leaders, with those issues rising on higher oil prices, which are a worrisome consequence of any possible military strikes against Syria. Exxon Mobil (XOMFree Exxon Mobil Stock Report) shares were a particular standout in this group. The basic materials stocks, up early in the day, turned mostly lower as the session concluded, however, with the metals issues notably in retreat.

Still, this modest comeback aside, we are likely to end the month with an aggregate loss for the major averages, with most of the equity groups in retreat after the market reached a succession of all-time highs early in the month. With the possible tapering of its bond-buying program by the Federal Reserve later this year--perhaps as early as next month--and with long-term interest rates having already adjusted to that possibility, there are questions about the pace of the business expansion going forward. For now, the economy perked up noticeably in the second quarter, as the gross domestic product was just revised upward to show an increase of 2.5%. Initially, that estimated gain had been a more modest 1.7%. One more revision, set for late next month, will be forthcoming before we get a first read on third-quarter GDP action in late October. Our expectation is that growth will approximate 2.0%-2.5% in the current three months.

The aforementioned GDP data, meantime, will be followed tomorrow with a look at personal income and consumer spending for July. Forecasts here are that both series showed slight improvement during the month. As for the data issued yesterday, there was the report of a slight drop in pending home sales, but nothing near as severe as last week's survey issuance showing a nasty down move in new home sales.

Looking ahead to a new day, yesterday's nice recovery has led to some buying overnight in Asia and a modest pickup so far this morning in Europe. And over here, signs that we may not rush into Syria just yet have the buyers out in some force, with the S&P 500 futures up almost five points. The NASDAQ futures, showing some leadership, are better by 13 points. So, some continuation of yesterday's modest rally could be forthcoming this morning at the outset of trading. – Harvey S. Katz       
    
At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.