Day Traders Diary


Equities began the session on a rather uninspiring note, but managed to climb back into positive territory by day's end. The key indices got off to a slow start despite China reporting its 2012 GDP growth at 7.9%. While the reading beat expectations, investor optimism was contained to the Asian session. Domestically, the lone economic data point came from the University Michigan, which reported its preliminary January consumer confidence measure at 71.3. The report was a disappointment and it contributed to the early weakness observed in the major averages.

The S&P 500 and Dow staged an afternoon recovery back into positive territory after headlines out of Washington indicated Republican lawmakers are open to a three-month debt ceiling extension. While the reports were met with initial resistance from top Democrats, the White House was said to be 'encouraged' by the proposal.

The 30-stock Dow Jones was the top performing index, and positive earnings from General Electric (GE 22.04, +0.74) contributed to the relative strength. The conglomerate reported earnings growth in five of its seven segments, and its stock gained 3.5% on the back of the strong results.

While the Dow and S&P 500 registered gains, the Nasdaq ended lower due to pressure from two major components.

Intel (INTC 21.25, -1.43) reported a fourth quarter earnings beat, but its top line results as well as forward guidance were disappointing. The stock slid 6.3% and other semiconductor manufacturers underperformed as well. The PHLX Semiconductor Index slipped 0.5%.

Apple (AAPL 500.00, -2.68) also weighed on tech shares. The stock shed 0.5% after supply concerns were revisited after reports out of Reuters indicated that Sharp, which supplies screens for the iPad, has slowed its production rate. The demand concerns spilled over to other Apple supplier as Qualcomm (QCOM 64.48, -0.45) and Skyworks (SKWS 20.88, -0.78) lost 0.7% and 3.6% respectively.

Additionally, the market received earnings from two major financials. American Express (AXP 59.78, -0.96) settled lower by 1.6% after reporting earnings in-line with its January 10 preannouncement. On the upside, Morgan Stanley (MS 22.38, +1.63) surged 7.9% after reporting a bottom line beat.

Crude oil shed 0.1% and ended at $95.38 after trading in a narrow range for the duration of the session.

Also of note, the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX 12.33, -1.24) sank 9.1% and finished at its lowest level since April 2007.

Floor volume at the New York Stock Exchange was aided by the January options expiration, and totaled 1.07 billion shares, which was well above average.

Sector leadership came from industrials (+1.0%) and the utilities (+0.9%) space. On the downside, technology shares were the biggest laggard (-0.3%), followed by financials (+0.2%).

As mentioned earlier, today's economic data was limited to the preliminary January University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Survey. The report came in at 71.3, which was lower than the 72.9 that was posted in the prior month, and worse than the reading of 75.0 that had been expected by the consensus.

Note that equity and bond markets will be closed on Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Day. On Tuesday, December existing home sales will be reported at 10:00 ET. Among earnings of note, Google (GOOG 704.51, -6.81) and Verizon Communications (VZ 42.54, +0.41) are scheduled to report on Tuesday. Verizon will announce its quarterly results ahead of the opening bell while Google is scheduled for an after-hours release.

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