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After The Close - The U.S. stock market advanced sharply from the start today, and managed to maintain its momentum through much of the afternoon. As often noted, buying late in the later part of the session is often a bullish indicator, as it shows traders looking to extend the current move. At the end of the session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 110 points; the broader S&P 500 Index was ahead 20 points; and the technology-heavy NASDAQ added on 72 points. Market breadth was quite favorable, as rising stocks outnumbered advancers by roughly three to one on the Big Board. All of the market sectors made contributions, with solid gain in the technology and healthcare areas. While there was little weakness today, some consumer names and basic materials issues lagged a bit.

Technically, the U.S. stock market has been quite volatile lately, as traders look for direction. While Tuesday’s up move was a bit tentative, and Wednesday’s move was strong to the downside, today the market delivered a stellar advance. The bulls seem to be stepping in again, looking to defend the rally. For now, it seems that there may be some support for the S&P 500 Index at 1,780 level, which functioned as a key support over the past few months. From here, we will have to wait and see, if the bulls can build on today’s gains. Sentiment improved today, as the VIX moved slightly lower to about 17.29.

Traders received some positive economic news this morning. Specifically, the advance reading showed GDP rising 3.2% in the fourth quarter, which was in line with the 3.3% many had expected. This likely was enough to offset somewhat weaker news on the employment front. Specifically, initial jobless claims rose to 348,000 for the week ended January 25th, which was higher than had been anticipated. Tomorrow, we will receive a few reports, including personal income and spending for December, as well as the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment figures for January.

Finally, we heard from a few high-profile names recently. Social media leader Facebook (FB) put out an impressive release last night, and that issue traded up sharply today. Also, Under Armour (UA) stock traded higher, after the apparel maker posted strong results, and offered an optimistic outlook. After the close, we will hear from technology leaders Google (GOOG) and Amazon (AMZN). - 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 EST - Stocks are trading nicely to the upside today after yesterday’s 190-point selloff on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Right around the noon hour on the East Coast, the Dow is up 125 points and the NASDAQ is higher by 72 points, or proportionately much better than the Dow. Market breadth affirms the positive tone, with the number of advancing issues outpacing those declining by a wide margin.

The main catalyst for the advance appears to be this morning’s report that domestic GDP rose 3.2% in the fourth quarter of 2013. That is a healthy reading that is helping investors feel confident about the strength of the business conditions stateside. Of particular note was a 3.3% rise in consumer spending, given that the consumer is the backbone of the economy. The upbeat GDP data trumped less uplifting news in the housing market, where pending home sales dropped 8.7% in December.

Among individual stocks, shares of Facebook (FB) are soaring after the company reported strong December-quarter earnings. Facebook is benefiting from a rising number of users and the amount of cash it takes in from advertising on mobile devices. In fact, its mobile ads accounted for more than half of total ad revenue for the first time. The rally in the stock is helping the shares of other social media stocks and the technology-heavy NASDAQ.

A couple of Dow-30 stocks that put out earnings releases aren’t being met with the same enthusiasm, though. Exxon Mobil (XOM Free Exxon Stock Report) stock is lower after the oil giant reported lower profits and production in its latest three-month period. Shares of 3M (MMM Free 3M Stock Report) are also one of the day’s laggards. The lone Dow company receiving a thumbs up from investors is Visa (V Free Visa Stock Report), after the credit card behemoth turned in profits and revenue that topped Wall Street’s expectations. The trend among consumers toward paying more with credit and debit cards, and less with cash and checks, continues to be a driving force behind Visa’s success. The strong fourth-quarter spending by consumers noted above was undoubtedly another plus for Visa.

In other markets, government bonds are predictably selling off with more apparent strength in the economy, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury not rising to 2.73% from 2.68%. Oil prices are up more than $1 a barrel, to over $98, too, in NYMEX trading.  

Heading into the afternoon session, conditions are much more favorable for investors after this morning’s very solid GDP report. – Robert Mitkowski

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 SurveyAfter yesterday’s drubbing, there are some bright spots in the stock market this morning due to earnings news. Social network operator Facebook (FB) is the standout, and its shares are soaring in the premarket after the company released better-than-expected December-period financials. The same is true for shares of athletic apparel company Under Armour (UA). Early indications are that investors are also pleased with quarterly results from telecommunications equipment company Qualcomm (QCOM), electronic payments processor Visa (VFree Visa Stock Report), package delivery heavyweight United Parcel Service (UPS), consumer goods manufacturer Colgate-Palmolive (CL), appliance maker Whirlpool (WHR), and clothing company Hanesbrands (HBI).

Not all the reports were rosy, however, and shares of hotel/casino operator Las Vegas Sands (LVS), energy giant Exxon Mobil (XOMFree Exxon Mobil Stock Report), diversified manufacturer 3M (MMMFree 3M Stock Report), tobacco company Altria Group (MO), retailer Tractor Supply (TSCO), electronic security provider The ADT Corp. (ADT), and fertilizer producer Potash Corp. (POT) are all moving lower ahead of the bell 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.

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Before The Bell - The stock market, which had broken a multi-session losing streak on Tuesday, and seemed to be headed higher throughout much of the pre-market session yesterday, shifted gears near the start of the actual trading session and broke notably to the downside as live activity began.

On point, after an hour into the session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had plunged to a loss of some 175 points. It was joined to the downside by an 18-point drop in the Standard and Poor's 500 Index and a 45-point reversal in the NASDAQ. Behind this early retreat were concerns about a possible contagion in the emerging market zone, less-than-compelling earnings data from two high-profile Dow companies, telecom giant AT&T (T - Free AT&T Stock Report) and aircraft maker Boeing (BA - Free Boeing Stock Report), and uneasiness ahead of the pending conclusion of the Federal Reserve's FOMC meeting. That get together ended at 2:00 PM (EST). More on the results below.

Meanwhile, after that initial rout of the bulls, the buyers stepped in, with some of the bears apparently not wanting to make big bets ahead of the FOMC meeting's conclusion. And by noon in New York, the losses had been halved on the Dow and the other principal averages. But after this attempt to turn things around failed to carry through fully, the market headed south again, and came into the meeting's conclusion with a markedly bearish tilt, suggesting that earnings and overseas influences were much too formidable a one-two punch for Wall Street to overcome without an assist from the Fed.

Then, the meeting ended. And the central bank, as expected, voted to trim its bond purchases by another $10 billion a month, to $65 billion. That was the second reduction of this size in as many meetings. The FOMC also opined that it was likely to reduce bond purchases in measured steps at future meetings, suggesting the economy was improving, though the job market remained mixed.

Unfortunately, this latest Fed action and the brighter picture it drew on the economy, failed to lessen Wall Street's angst. In fact, after a brief rally, that took less than five minutes, the market headed lower again, reaching the session's nadir as the afternoon progressed, with the Dow, at one point, off 220 points. It then proceeded to do some backing and filling, before closing down across the board.

What rattled the market, we think, was the additional tapering (although it was expected), an evolving consensus that the economy was getting sufficiently better that a further tapering was now a given, and the omission of any comments on the rising economic and currency risks in the emerging markets. It seems as though, by such an omission, the bank was looking past such difficulties as a nonevent, at this time. Given the abrupt turn down in our equity market since last Thursday, it seems likely Wall Street has a less welcoming view of the situation globally.      

Such conjecture aside, there remained little for the bulls to cheer about in the latest session, and the averages all closed decidedly lower, led down the bearish path by the Dow, which gave back 190 points, the NASDAQ, which tumbled 47 points, and the S&P 500 Index, which shed 18 points. The smaller-cap indexes, meantime, fared no better, and most sectors closed down sharply. What did rise was the VIX, or volatility index, which gained almost 10% to close above 17. Earlier in the bull run, that so-called fear gauge had fallen to 11.05. That level acknowledged the overbought nature of the market; the more recent level suggests a better balance, if not even an oversold level.      

All told, from its current perch, the Dow is off almost 850 points. While that is small in percentage terms, being just 5%, or half the decline normally acknowledged to be a correction, the number is sufficient to get a passing glance, especially as we are coming up to the end of the month, a period in which many market watchers like to base their full-year view. Indeed, some hold that the action in January foretells the market's behavior for the 12 months. As for a correction, it has been almost two and a half years we suffered one, an unusually long stretch. 

As to the day ahead, the principal equity indexes headed lower again in Asia overnight, and they are pressing downward in Europe this morning. But over here, the futures are suggesting a higher opening, with stronger earnings and stellar market moves by both Visa (V) and Facebook (FB) helping to lead the pre-market charge. We'll see if this momentum can be sustained.   - Harvey S. Katz

At the time of this article's writing, the author had positions in T.