Day Traders Diary


Stocks registered modest losses during today's quiet session. With no economic data or notable earnings to dictate the tone, the major averages were trapped in a relatively narrow range. The S&P 500 opened in the red, and traded near its opening levels for the duration of the session. As a result, the benchmark index finished lower by 0.3%. The Nasdaq outperformed and shed 0.1% after Apple (AAPL 523.90, -3.10) recovered the bulk of its early losses to ended lower by 0.6%.

The SPDR Energy Select Sector ETF (XLE 73.22, -0.57) shed 0.8% despite little change in the price of crude oil. Several energy companies lagged after receiving downgrades from Howard Weil. Among the most notable names, Phillips 66 (PSX 51.36, -1.78) was downgraded to 'Sector Perform' and Tesoro (TSO 40.22, -2.32) was cut to 'Sector Outperform.' Phillips 66 lost 3.4% and Tesoro fell 5.5%.

Financials performed in-line with the broader market after the Federal Reserve announced the results of the Independent Foreclosure Review. As a result of the review, ten major banks will be required to provide $3.3 billion in payments and $5.2 billion in other assistance to affected homeowners. The settlement comes after banks engaged in deficient practices in mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure processing. Looking at individual financials, Wells Fargo (WFC 34.57, -0.37) and US Bank (USB 32.92, -0.30) lost 0.5% and 0.9% respectively. Also of note, Bank of America (BAC 12.09, -0.02) announced it has reached a settlement with Fannie Mae to resolve agency mortgage repurchase claims on loans originated and sold directly to Fannie Mae through December 31, 2008. The settlement is expected to reduce Bank of America's fourth quarter pretax income by about $2.7 billion.

The health care sector registered gains thanks to the strength of health care tech companies. Allscripts Healthcare (MDRX 9.71, +0.34) rose by 3.6% after Avondale upgraded the stock to 'Outperform.' Elsewhere, Quality Systems (QSII 18.21, +0.82) gained 4.7% after NextGen Healthcare Information Systems, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of QSII, announced it has entered into a strategic agreement with Medline Industries to expand its integrated solutions.

The Dow Jones Transportation Average slipped 0.4% as railroads underperformed. Earlier, Kansas City Southern (KSU 86.42, -2.40) was downgraded to 'Equal Weight' from 'Overweight' at Stephens. CSX (CSX 20.46, -0.48) and Kansas City Southern were two of the weakest rail operators, and both lost in excess of 2.0%.

On the upside, airlines saw relative strength. A weekend article published in Barron's discussed the industry's valuation and pointed to Delta Air Lines (DAL 12.99, +0.01) as one of top airline stocks.

For-profit education names were pressured after ITT Education (ESI 15.57, -3.72) announced it expects to record an after-tax charge of about $13.2 million to its fourth quarter net income. The charge stems from a settlement with Sallie Mae, and is expected to reduce ITT's fourth quarter bottom line by about $0.56. ITT Education slumped 19.3% on the news, and its peers underperformed as well. Strayer Education (STRA 57.69, -3.17) and New Oriental Education & Technology (EDU 19.50, -0.50) lost 5.2% and 2.5% respectively.

Tomorrow's economic data will be limited to November consumer credit, scheduled for a 15:00 ET release.

The U.S. Treasury will auction off $32 billion in 3-yr notes.

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