Day Traders Diary


Stocks spent today's session in the red as the hope for a timely budget deal becomes more distant. The major averages saw a late-afternoon spike after reports out of Washington indicated President Obama will present a scaled-back budget proposal during his meeting with top lawmakers today. However, shortly after the president began his meeting with lawmakers, further reports indicated no new offer would be made, and President Obama would stand by his original proposal. As a result, the S&P 500 lost 1.1%.

The energy sector was the weakest performer and the SPDR Energy Select Sector ETF (XLE 69.83, -1.24) lost 1.7%. Crude oil slipped to session lows after today's inventory data revealed a smaller-than-expected weekly draw. The energy component settled lower by 0.1%, at $90.79.

Sector leaders saw comparable losses as Exxon Mobil (XOM 85.10, -1.76) and Chevron (CVX 106.45, -2.07) both lost near 2.0%. Looking at news within the space, Carrizo Oil & Gas (CRZO 20.64, -1.17) slid 5.4% following the sale of its interests in the Huntington Field in the United Kingdom's North Sea for $184 million.

The volatility index, or VIX, surged 11.0%. The volatility measure ended at 21.62 after crossing above the 20.00 level yesterday. The move was notable as the VIX has held below 20.00 since late July. At its lowest point, the VIX has flirted with the 13.30 level. However, a steady rise has been observed over the past week as investors seek more downside protection due to the uncertainty resulting from the lack of a budget deal. Today's VIX close marked a six-month high.

The Dow Jones Transportation Average slid 0.9% and outperformed the broader market. JB Hunt (JBHT 58.48, -0.16) and Landstar (LSTR 51.62, -0.12) were among the top performers, losing around 0.2% each. Meanwhile, providers of package delivery services weighed on the index. FedEx (FDX 90.39, -1.11) slid 1.2% and UPS (UPS 72.83, -1.08) lost 1.5%.

Elsewhere, Barnes & Noble (BKS 14.97, +0.62) gained 4.3% after Pearson (PSO 19.28, -0.09) confirmed plans to invest $89.5 million in NOOK Media, LLC, which is a new company consisting of Barnes & Noble's digital businesses. The NOOK e-reader, tablets, the NOOK digital store, as well as the company's 674 college bookstores across the country will all be included under the umbrella of NOOK Media, LLC. Though Barnes & Noble saw notable gains, it should be noted that in addition to announcing the Pearson investment, BKS said today that holiday sales results will miss expectations, and the NOOK business will not meet the company's earlier projections.

Today's economic data revealed a 1.7% increase in pending home sales during the month of November. While the pending sales data does not have a direct impact on homebuilders, strong sales of existing homes bode well for new construction projects. Major homebuilders ticked up in immediate response to the sales data, but were pressured back near their lows. DR Horton (DHI 19.24, -0.24) slid 1.2% and PulteGroup (PHM 17.60, -0.16) finished lower by 0.9%.

The December Chicago PMI reading of 51.6 surprised to the upside as economists surveyed by had generally expected a reading of 51.0 to follow the prior month's 50.4.

Week in Review: Equities Slip as Budget Deal Remains Distant

On Monday, the major averages spent the abbreviated session in the red as the lack of progress in the budget debate weighed on sentiment. The S&P 500 hovered near its lows for the duration of the day, and the benchmark index lost 0.2% amid low volume. Microsoft (MSFT 26.55, -0.41) slipped 1.4% after New York Times reported it has not seen an uptick in demand for personal computers following the release of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system. Computer assemblers Hewlett-Packard (HPQ 13.68, -0.36) and Dell (DELL 9.97, -0.14) both lost near 2.0% on the news.

Wednesday began on a positive note, but the early sentiment failed to hold. The key averages slipped to their respective lows during the first two hours of trade, and held there for the remainder of the session. As a result, the benchmark S&P 500 index finished lower by 0.5%. Retailers saw general weakness and the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT 60.91, -0.31) lost 1.7%. The softness followed a report from MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, which pointed to a 0.7% increase in holiday sales as compared to last year. The number was a disappointment as the general consensus expected sales to rise by as much as 4.0%.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 ended with minor losses following a volatile session. Equities began the day on a positive note, but comments from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid caused a quick change in sentiment. Speaking from the Senate floor, Senator Reid said that all signs suggest the country will go over the fiscal cliff. In addition, the senator said the House of Representatives is being run as a "dictatorship" by Speaker Boehner. The comments caused the major averages to fall to their respective lows. However, an afternoon report out of Washington indicated the House of Representatives will reconvene on Sunday, December 30 at 18:30 ET in hopes of approving a budget. In response, the major averages raced off their lows, ending the day little changed after seeing losses of more than 1.0%. Financial stocks showed the most intraday sensitivity to the headlines, and the sector led the late-morning decline. However, the late-afternoon rally helped the sector recover the bulk of its losses. Among the majors, Bank of America (BAC 11.36, -0.11) shed 0.6% and JPMorgan Chase (JPM 43.24, -0.39) fell 0.8%.

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