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After The Close - The U.S. stock market got off to a somewhat weaker start this morning, but managed to firm up in the afternoon. Although a few headline names issued less-than-stellar results, traders were likely pleased with the idea that Janet Yellen, who supports an accommodative monetary policy, may well be installed as the next head of the Federal Reserve. At the close of the day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 55 points; the broader S&P 500 Index was ahead nine points; and the technology-heavy NASDAQ, which had lagged much of the day, managed to tack on seven points. Market breadth was a bit mixed. Advancers were well ahead of decliners on the NYSE, but these figures were less favorable on the NASDAQ. Almost all of the market sectors made progress today. There was strength in the basic materials issues, as the gold miners advanced on higher precious metals prices. The energy stocks also did well. Nonetheless, there was some weakness in the technology area, as the hardware stocks lagged.

Technically, the S&P 500 Index extended yesterday’s gain, moving out of the trading range that had been established over the past week, or so. Hopefully for the bulls, that move will see some follow through over the next few days. Notably, the broad index is now approaching the 1,800 mark, an area that will be important to watch, as it likely holds some “psychological” significance with traders. The VIX ended a bit lower today, at 12.38. This measure remains at very low levels, which suggests a bullish sentiment, and possibly to an extreme degree.

There were quite a few economic reports released in the United States this morning. Initial jobless claims came in at 339,000 for the week ended November 9th, which was an improvement over the prior week’s reading, and more or less, as anticipated. The third-quarter productivity figures also approached expectations. Elsewhere, the nation’s trade gap remains an area of concern, widening to $41.8 billion in September.

In the corporate arena, Cisco (CSCO - Free Cisco Stock Report) stock traded lower, after the networker released somewhat disappointing guidance. Also, Kohl’s (KSS) shares were off sharply after that retailer put out weaker figures. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart (WMT - Free Wal-Mart Stock Report) moved lower early, but ended higher, after the department store giant put out a mixed report. - Adam Rosner

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

12:30 PM EST - Stocks are mixed to moderately higher in trading on Wall Street today. Coming off another record-high closing (its 36th in 2013) for the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Wednesday, there doesn’t appear to be any overwhelmingly bullish signals for investors. Even so, there seems to be enough momentum in the market to forestall a broad selloff.

Right around the noon hour on the East coast, the Dow is up 33 points, and the NASDAQ is flat. But market breadth varies by index, with gainers topping losers on the New York Stock Exchange, while the reverse is true on the NASDAQ. The tech-laden NASDAQ is being hindered by a poor outlook from Cisco Systems (CSCO - Free Cisco Stock Report), which suggested that spending on technology-related gear is unusually weak, particularly in certain emerging markets. That news did not go over well, and Cisco stock is off sharply on heavy volume, dragging on the tech sector.

Elsewhere, performance among retailers ranged from good at Dillard’s (DDS) to decent at Wal-Mart Stores (WMT - Free Wal-Mart Stock Report) to poor at Kohl’s (KSS). The stocks of those respective companies are reacting accordingly. An upbeat outlook yesterday from Macy’s (M) raised hopes that the upcoming holiday selling season might be a good one. But it looks like individual results will come down to how well each company’s customer base is faring and if stores can effectively execute their merchandising strategy. On the latter count, Kohl’s is seeking to enhance its national brand strategy by marketing IZOD men’s sportswear next fall.

In economic news, weekly initial unemployment claims dropped by a couple of thousand, which is a good sign. The word from Europe wasn’t as uplifting, though, with signs of anemic growth suggesting the region’s recovery is not as entrenched as earlier hoped. Mortgage rates are also on the rise stateside, with government agency Freddie Mac reporting that the average rate for a 30-year home loan has risen to 4.35%, up from 4.16% last week and 3.34% a year earlier. The most recent figure is still excellent, just not quite the bargain as before.

Meantime, confirmation hearings are under way for Janet Yellen, nominated for the top spot at the Federal Reserve, where a smooth transition is the desired outcome, given the Fed’s more prominent role in recent years. - Robert Mitkowski

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

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Stocks to Watch from The SurveyInvestors are going over a pair of earnings reports from two Dow-30 components, neither of which impressed Wall Street. The more disappointing report came from networking equipment bellwether Cisco Systems (CSCOFree Cisco Stock Report), which delivered a smaller-than-expected increase in October-period revenues and said that the top line would likely decline some 8%-10% in the January interim. Weak demand from emerging markets appears to be the primary culprit, and the stock is plunging ahead of the bell in response. Wal-Mart (WMTFree Wal-Mart Stock Report) stock is also indicating a lower opening this morning, but just slightly, after the world’s largest retailer announced October-quarter earnings that were a bit better than expected, but missed on the top line. Management’s guidance was also met with a tepid response. An earnings report from industry peer Kohl’s (KSS) was much weaker, and that stock is down sharply in pre-market trading. On the other hand, shares of mining company Kinross Gold (KGC), oilfield services provider Helmerich & Payne (HP), semiconductor capital equipment maker Applied Materials (AMAT), and diversified manufacturer Tyco International (TYC) are all up in the premarket on earnings news. – 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, following the lead of Asia and Europe, opened the session yesterday notably to the downside, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average quickly moving to a loss of almost 80 points. True, that was not a major selloff, especially given the elevated level of this 30-stock composite. Nevertheless, in light of the extended nature of equity valuations these days, it was enough of a decline to get some skittish investors contemplating that a more serious setback might well be on the way.

However, such worries were overdone, especially on this day, as the market stabilized at these moderately lower levels and soon started to pare the deficits in the major averages. Interestingly, the losses were largely confined to the larger-cap indexes, as the Standard and Poor's Mid-Cap 400 and the small-cap Russell 2000 rather quickly moved into the plus column.

Then, by early afternoon, sentiment shifted to the positive side of the ledger, perhaps for no other reason than the aforementioned pullback had little traction. Then, after meandering about in slightly positive territory for several hours, the stock market--possibly on rumors that Janet Yellen, the presumptive successor to Ben Bernanke as head of the Federal Reserve, would offer bullish monetary testimony when she appears before the Senate Banking Committee tomorrow for her confirmation hearing--took off on a bullish ride. Those rumors were then confirmed after the close of trading, as Ms. Yellen did, indeed, offer hope that any monetary tapering might not take place until there is a sustained economic recovery of some note. By the close of trading, therefore, the Dow was up a solid 71 points (reaching an all-time high in the process); the tech-heavy NASDAQ was better by 46 points or more than 1% (and is right at a 52-week high); and the S&P 400 Index was in the black by more than 13 points, or better than 1%. Meanwhile, on expectations of a further loose monetary policy, perhaps, interest rates backtracked, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note easing to a yield of 2.73%. The note's yield has been rising over the past week or two.

The focus on the Fed was logical, as we are in a news vacuum of sorts these days, with many government economic releases being delayed by the earlier shutdown and with third-quarter earnings season fading fast. In fact, save for several high-profile names, and the usual chorus of retailers--many of which are on a October-period reporting schedule--there are relatively few companies on the reporting docket this week. One exception is networking giant Cisco Systems (CSCO - Free Cisco Stock Report), which reported after the bell yesterday and exceeded profit expectations, but fell a bit short on the revenue side, and then proceeded to issue a downbeat revenue forecast for the current quarter. That blue chip, which has been strengthening of late, fell back after the issuance and is suggesting a notably weaker opening in the pre-market this morning.

Meanwhile, as to individual groups, there was some selective buying in the technology stocks, including the aforementioned Cisco Systems during the regular session, while the basic materials issues were mixed, as was the energy group, with big oil down, but the drillers pointing higher. The biotechnology also were a bit better, but the giant drug houses meandered through an uneven day, with Dow-30 component Pfizer (PFE - Free Pfizer Stock Report) climbing to a 52-week high, but with Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) fading a bit.     

Now, a new day dawns, and the strength stateside carried over to the indexes in Asia overnight, where the indexes were generally higher. The upturn is now continuing in Europe, where the upbeat Yellen observations were offsetting somewhat cautious business signs on the Continent. But over here, the early downturn in Cisco is pushing the NASDAQ futures down in the pre-market, while the Standard and Poor's 500 Index futures are pointing somewhat higher, presaging a mixed opening on Wall Street a bit later this morning.   - Harvey S. Katz

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