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After The Close - Stocks fell sharply to finish out the week, although a couple of the major averages still managed to post modest gains for the last five trading days as a whole. Friday’s session saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average pull back160 points and the S&P 500 shed 24 points. But the big loser for the second day running was the NASDAQ, which dropped a precipitous 110 points, or 2.6%. Small-cap stocks, as represented by the Russell 2000, also pulled back notably. For the full week, though, the Dow and the S&P were up a bit.

Before the opening bell on Friday, investors received word that the type of moderate job gains that have been typical of the nation’s expansion in recent years continued in March, when the government reported that 192,000 positions were added last month. Upward revisions to the January and February figures left little doubt in investors’ minds that the Federal Reserve would very likely continue reducing the extraordinarily economic stimulus it has provided by aggressive bond-buying.

It might well have been a combination of extended valuations and the increasing prospect of higher interest rates in a year or so that weighed on sentiment, particularly on tech and biotech names, as the week wrapped up.  

In general, defensive investments, such as utilities stocks, bonds, and gold did well today. But there were also a couple of IPOs that shined. Those included shares of GrubHub (GRUB), a company specializing in online food delivery service, and shares of IMS Health (IMS). IMS Health provides information to pharmaceutical and healthcare companies. Notably, both GrubHub and IMS Health are profitable, in contrast to some other companies that have gone public in the recent past.

In company news, industrial services provider Synnex (SNX) reported strong earnings growth in its first fiscal quarter, while benefiting from the acquisition of a business from Dow-30 component IBM (IBM - Free IBM Stock Report). Shares of the distributor of IT products soared on the news.

Elsewhere, the stock of generic drug maker Mylan (MYL) moved up nicely after a Swedish pharmaceutical company it had been pursing as a takeover target rejected its overtures. 

Despite the poor showing to close out the week, investors may still take heart from the fact that stocks have routinely bounced back from selloffs in the bull market of the past five years. The "buy on the dips" philosophy might play out yet again, assuming the upcoming corporate earnings season is supportive.   - Robert Mitkowski

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

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3:25 PM EDT - The major U.S. equity indexes are under significant selling pressure as trading moves into the final hour of the week. Investors are unloading the momentum stocks that performed very well in 2013. With that sentiment in vogue the last few days, it should come as no surprise that the biotech stocks and the technology issues are getting slammed today. Both those areas did very well over the last 12 months and were ripe for some profit taking, which has been the case over much of the last fortnight. Today’s selloff has been the most pronounced though.

Thus, with less than an hour to go before the market’s close on these shores, the major equity averages are down significantly. The Dow Jones Industrials are down 160 points; the S&P 500 Index is off 24 points; the small-cap Russell 2000 is a whopping 28 points lower; and the technology-laden NASDAQ Composite is off 111 points. Investors, despite an encouraging report on the labor market earlier this morning, are exiting the riskier areas at a feverish pace today. The safer fixed-income market appears to be the beneficiary of this movement out of equities. The yield on the 10-year Treasury Note, which moves in the opposite direction to the price, is falling sharply. - 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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12:15 PM EDT - The U.S. stock market got off to a decent start this morning, but has since weakened. At just past noon in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is off about 53 points; the broader S&P 500 Index is down 12 points; and the NASDAQ is off sharply, slipping 94 points. Market breadth now suggests a weaker tone today’s session. Declining issues are just ahead of advancers on the NYSE. Further, it should be noted that these statistics are quite negative on the NASDAQ, to the tune of nearly four to one in favor of the decliners.

Some market sectors are advancing, though. There is strength in the basic materials group, as the coal issues are gaining. The energy stocks are also performing well, helped by the distribution and pipeline stocks. Notably, the price of crude oil is up slightly today and that may be contributing to some of the strength in this equity group. In contrast, the technology stocks are quite weak today, with the biotech issues once again getting slammed. Recently, it seems the market is looking for some new sector leadership. This would provide a clearer direction for traders. As the first-quarter earnings season commences next week, we may see some stock groups begin to strengthen, and leadership emerge.

Technically, the market has displayed some strength lately, as the S&P 500 is not too far from the 1,900 mark. Meanwhile, the Dow has also firmed up considerably. But, the NASDAQ, which contains numerous growth names, has lagged over the past month, and this may have traders concerned. It will be important for the bulls to see this key index join the others in the coming weeks.

Traders received an important economic report this morning. Specifically, nonfarm payrolls rose by 192,000 in the month of March. Notably, the reading came in just below expectations. Meanwhile, the headline unemployment rate held steady at 6.7%, while some had hoped that it would decline slightly to 6.6%. Importantly, traders do not seem concerned with this month’s report, as it is unlikely to bring about a shift in the Fed’s current monetary policies.

Traders did not receive much corporate news today. We did recently hear from Micron (MU). That stock is heading lower, even though the semiconductor maker put out a decent report. The corporate news will pick up, as the first-quarter earnings season begins in a few days. Stay tuned. - 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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Stocks to Watch from The Survey Investors’ attention is focused on today’s jobs report, but there is some corporate news to be aware of, as well. Indeed, shares of used car retailer CarMax (KMX) and electronic transaction processing services provider Global Payments (GPN) are both moving modestly lower ahead of the bell after releasing February-period results. Wall Street was more upbeat about February-quarter financials from flash memory manufacturer Micron Technology (MU), however, and that stock is indicating a moderately higher opening this morning, as a result. 

There is also some news on the M&A front. To wit, shares of Mylan, Inc. (MYL) are up sharply in the premarket, after multiple news reports indicated that the drugmaker may be looking to acquire Sweden-based industry peer Meda AB. Similarly, the stock of Mercury Systems (MRCY) is up notably ahead of the bell, due to news reports stating that aerospace and defense giant Boeing (BAFree Boeing Stock Report) may be interested in acquiring the defense industry subcontractor. – 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 - After three solid performances to start the week—the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 hit all-time intra-day highs in the process—there was some profit taking on Wall Street yesterday. The selling was prompted by some skittishness ahead of today’s much anticipated March employment report (more below), though it should be noted that the two aforementioned indexes were relatively unchanged at the close. The setbacks for the technology-heavy NASDAQ and the small-cap Russell 2000 were a bit more pronounced, with respective losses of 39 (or -0.9%) and 12 points (-1.0%). The selling in these two riskier areas, along with the decisive advantage declining issues held over advancers (more than two to one on the NASDAQ), reflected some nervousness among investors ahead of the labor market data.

Overall, there appeared to be plenty of sector rotation in play yesterday. Investors were once again unloading some of the momentum stocks, which were up sharply last year. To wit, the volatile biotechnology stocks, which performed remarkably well in 2013, were out of favor again. The struggles of the biotechnology issues were the big reason why the healthcare issues, which typically do well when the defensive-minded issues are desired, finished in the red. It also was a difficult day for the technology names, including recent social media darling Facebook (FB) stock; most of the technology selling took place in the second half of session. However, two technology stocks that bucked the trend yesterday were Google (GOOG) and Intel (INTC - Free Intel Stock Report), with the latter's gain likely driven by the aforementioned rotation; some of the stocks that were notable laggards last year did well yesterday.

Also weighing on the equity market was some mixed news on the economy. On the negative side were disappointing initial jobless claims data—weekly claims rose to 326,000 from a revised 310,000—and a wider-than-expected trade deficit. Conversely, the Institute for Supply Management reported that its nonmanufacturing activity index increased to 53.1 in March, from 51.6 in February; the figure fell slightly short of consensus expectations--and may have had something to do, along with the anticipation of today’s labor report, with the subpar performance of the consumer cyclical stocks yesterday.

But as noted above, the week's (and for that matter the month’s) most anticipated report on the economy was release this morning. At 8:30 A.M. (EDT), the Labor Department reported that 192,000 jobs were created last month, and the unemployment rate was relatively unchanged at 6.7%. Those figures were in the ballpark of what the consensus expected. Investors should also note that January and February payroll creation figures also were upwardly revised. At first blush, we don’t expect the market to move forcefully in either direction on this report. That said, we would not be overly surprised if some of the commentary on the report, particularly from Federal Reserve officials, had more of an impact on the market than the actual figures.

With less than an hour to go before the commencement of trading on these shores, the equity futures, particularly the NASDAQ futures, are presaging a higher open for our market. Overnight, trading was mixed in Asia, while the major European bourses are currently higher.   - William G. Ferguson

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