After the Close - After several weeks of volatile trading on Wall Street—marked by a number of pronounced intra-day swings—investors exhibited some fatigue today. With the government shutdown over and the budget and debt-ceiling talks pushed down the road, investors took a bit of breather ahead of some heavy earnings and economic news due later this week. The market traded in a tight band around the neutral line and the margin between advancing and declining issues were razor thin, though in favor of the latter on both the Big Board and the NASDAQ.

A closer look at the major equity indexes showed that the NASDAQ, which had a very good five-day stretch next week, once again performed relatively better the Dow Jones Industrial Average and, to a lesser extent, the S&P 500 Index on the strength of the technology and telecommunications sectors. Technology issues, in particular, have been strong this month, with the overall sector up around 4% over the last three weeks. Conversely, all of the other groups that compromise the top-10 sectors were modestly weaker in the latest session. In the technology space, shares of Apple (AAPL) provided considerable support. Investors reacted favorably to a report from research firm Gartner (IT) that said it expects tablet demand to remain vibrant into the upcoming holiday shopping season. Other tech names that moved higher included athenahealth (ATHN), WebMD Health (WBMD). Meantime, there was some modest profit taking in the stock of Google (GOOG) after the issue rose sharply last week when the Internet search company reported strong quarterly results.

Staying in the technology space, shares of SAP (SAP) moved higher after the provider of enterprise application software posted better-than-expected results and reaffirmed its guidance. Other earnings news of note included a bottom-line beat by apparel giant V.F. Corporation (VFC) and strong results from toymaker Hasbro (HAS).  However, the reaction to McDonald’s (MCD Free McDonald’s Stock Report) quarterly showing was mixed, with a slightly better-than-expected bottom-line showing offset by a revenue miss. Looking ahead, the earnings news really heats up over the next four days, with reports due on nine more Dow-30 companies.

Meanwhile, we did get some economic news today when the National Association of Realtors reported that sales of previously owned properties came in at an annualized rate of 5.29 million units last month. That was down from the downwardly revised August total of 5.39 million homes sold. Investors, though, should note that the August-September total sales pace was still the best since 2009, when the nation was just exiting the most severe economic downturn since the 1930s. In all, the estimated September sales figure was in line with the forecast level of 5.30 million homes sold.

Although today’s news on housing was not a game changer, tomorrow’s much-anticipated data on the labor market has the potential to be as it is likely to be closely watched by the Federal Reserve ahead of its two-day monetary policy meeting that commences next Tuesday. A strong job creation report would probably bring the talk of if and when the central bank would begin to taper its bond-purchasing program back into the investment community’s spotlight. Right now our stance is that the Federal Reserve will keep things status quo, especially with concerns that the just-ended 16-day government shutdown likely took some starch out of the nation’s GDP growth in the current quarter. However, any deviation from the consensus could raise the volatility in a market that is clearly overbought at this juncture. -  William G. Ferguson

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


12:30 PM EST - The U.S. stock market is putting in a mixed session today, as traders digest recent gains. While there may be some profit taking evolving, it should be noted that the market is quite orderly, which is good to see after the big recent rise. Indeed, it is not unusual, and is probably even healthy for traders to take a breather, and get comfortable with the market’s current level. With the recent move up, the S&P 500 Index has broken through the 1,700 mark, hitting record high ground, and that is likely getting some media attention, as it is a milestone event. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if the bulls will display some strength in the afternoon, or if the market will pull back further. Often the way the market acts in the final hours of the day can be quite telling. For now, sentiment has turned a bit cautious, as the VIX is moving slightly higher today.

At just past noon in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is off 14 points; the S&P 500 Index is off one point; but, the NASDAQ, which is once again outperforming, is ahead seven points. Still, the session is quite mixed, as declining issues are just ahead of advancers on the NYSE. The market sectors are largely divided today, as could be expected. Technology stocks are advancing, with strength in the computer hardware names. And, the basic materials issues are doing well, helped by strength in the precious metals. In contrast, there is weakness in some of the telecom sector. Many of the consumer names are losing ground, too.

Traders received one notable economic report this morning. Specifically, existing home sales for the month of September came in at 5.29 million units, annualized, which was lower than the August reading, but basically in line with expectations. Tomorrow, we get a look at the September non-farm payrolls, and that report will be widely watched. In fact, some traders may be sitting on the sidelines in anticipation of that release.

Meanwhile, the corporate earnings reports continue to stream in. Notably, McDonald’s (MCD - Free McDonald's Stock Report) put out a somewhat lackluster issuance, sending the stock a bit lower. But, shares of Hasbro (HAS) and SAP (SAP) are trading higher on healthy reports. - Adam Rosner

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


Stocks to Watch from The Survey Earnings season continues today, and investors are going over a number of reports, highlighted by McDonald’s (MCDFree McDonald’s Stock Report). The restaurant operator and Dow-30 component has reported third-quarter results that were slightly better than expected, but investors were not impressed with other aspects of the release, and the stock is moving down modestly ahead of the bell as a result. Shares of oilfield services provider Halliburton (HAL) are also indicating a slightly lower opening this morning on earnings news. Conversely, investors seem pleased with quarterly financials from toymaker Hasbro (HAS), apparel company V.F. Corp. (VFC), and software developer Checkpoint (CHKP), and all of these stocks are moving higher ahead of the bell.

Elsewhere, telecommunications equipment maker Tellabs (TLAB) has agreed to be acquired by a private-equity firm for $2.45 a share in cash, causing the stock to move nicely higher in the premarket. Finally, shares of JPMorgan Chase (JPMFree JPMorgan Chase Stock Report) are down slightly in pre-market trading, likely due to reports that the bank may have reached a tentative $13 billion settlement with the Justice Department related to mortgage loans. – 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 - Every day, it seems, there is something else grabbing the headlines on Wall Street. Often, it is something negative, such as the soap opera regarding the partial government shutdown and looming debt-ceiling crisis during the first half of this month. Then, as those contentious dealings were settled, at least for a couple of months, the focus turned to earnings. Here, the news has been uneven, with high-profile hits as well as prominent misses. To wit, on Thursday of last week, tech icon and Dow-30 component International Business Machines (IBMFree IBM Stock Report) reported some less-than-compelling third-quarter metrics, and that blue chip took it on the chin, pushing to another new 52-week low. The stock eased a bit further on Friday.

Then, to close out the week, we received some news that the bulls could really run with, as Internet search engine Google (GOOG) posted better-than-expected quarterly results. That issue already trading just shy of $900 a share at Thursday's close and having earlier in the year hit a record $928, gapped higher in the pre-market and proceeded to open the festivities notably to the plus side and subsequently soar past $1,000 a share, cresting for the time being at just north of $1,015, truly rarified air, before ending the day at $1,011. It is now suggesting a higher opening, in the area of 1,020 a share. Also helping the mood on Wall Street were some positive economic figures out of China, the world's second largest economy, and a growing consensus that the Federal Reserve will hold off on any monetary tapering when it meets on October 29th and 30th.

Now, amidst the peak of earnings season and the unrelenting profit flow over the next fortnight, the government will be back on the front pages of the business section. But in a different way than before, as it will not be news of a partial government shutdown or a possible debt-ceiling violation, but instead, the issuance this week of a series of delayed government economic reports, starting out tomorrow with September's employment report. Also, this week, we are due to get data on new home sales and orders for durable goods. Also, in non-government-related data, we will be getting reports on sales of existing homes and consumer sentiment. It will thus be a busy week, as we attempt to get back to some semblance of normalcy on the Street.     

Meanwhile, the strong showing by Google helped stocks to end a volatile, but meaningfully, higher, week to the upside, with the most formidable gains registered by the tech-heavy NASDAQ, where the aforementioned Google is domiciled. That index jumped by 51 points on Friday. Other winners to end the week included the Dow, which added 28 points and the Standard and Poor's 500 Index, which gained 11 points, to close at 1,745, or well above its 50-day moving average and at an all-time peak, which is a technician's dream. Of note, the VIX volatility index fell anew, dropping to 13.04, after having fallen earlier in the day to a scant 12.34, putting the market further into overbought and risky territory, as we get ready to start a new week.

And as we start the week, we find the futures are suggesting a mixed opening ahead of the aforementioned key reports, starting out today with data on September existing home sales, where a modest decline is the forecast. The new home sales report, which is a more volatile metric, and is due on Thursday, is forecast to show a modest uptick. In between, the critical employment report should show some pickup in non-farm payroll growth, to the area of 180,000.

As for earnings, they should again be coming en masse, highlighted by tomorrow's releases from a pair of Dow components, DuPont (DDFree DuPont Stock Report) and United Tech. (UTXFree United Tech. Stock Report). 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.