Day Traders Diary


The S&P 500 ended today's quiet session with a slim loss of 0.1%. Equities started the day amid mixed European trade where Italian and Spanish stocks trailed behind the remainder of the region. The relative weakness came amid continued political turmoil.

In Italy, markets showed caution as Silvio Berlusconi speculated his party may be closing in on the lead ahead of the February 24/25 general elections.

Meanwhile, Spanish equities underperformed as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy continued facing increased scrutiny following allegations of having accepted secret payments from his party's slush fund. A weekend poll indicated almost 80% of all respondents have found Mr. Rajoy's explanations to be insufficient.

As Italian and Spanish markets underperformed, their respective yields climbed higher. The Spanish 10-yr added six basis points to 5.43% while Italy's 10-yr yield rose seven basis points to 4.62%.

While the two sovereign yields climbed higher, U.S. interest rates were little changed. The 10-yr yield eased fractionally to 1.946%.

Like Treasury yields, U.S. equities saw little change during today's session. With no earnings or economic data of note, stocks drifted sideways throughout the day. Below average volume contributed to the uneventful trade as some traders were absent due to the aftermath of snowstorm Nemo.

On the downside, the energy sector underperformed, and the SPDR Energy Select Sector ETF (XLE 78.19, -0.39) slipped 0.5%. Energy stocks spent the session near their lows despite an intraday spike in the price of crude oil. The energy component jumped to near $97.00 after comments from the president of Germany's Bundesbank resulted in dollar weakness, thus helping the dollar-denominated crude. The greenback lost ground to the euro after Mr. Weidmann said there is "no indication euro is seriously overvalued."

While energy stocks were unable to lift off their lows, the defensively-oriented utilities spent the day in a steady climb. The SPDR Utilities Select Sector ETF (XLU 36.78, +0.09) added 0.3% amid relative strength from electricity producers. Exelon (EXC 31.42, +0.34) settled higher by 1.1%.

Though utilities registered modest gains, the financial sector was the top performer. The space hovered near its highs thanks to relative strength of major components. Citigroup (C 43.15, +0.47), Wells Fargo (WFC 35.26, +0.38), and U.S. Bank (USB 34.09, +0.44) all gained in excess of 1.0%. Prior to the open, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank were upgraded to 'Buy' at Stifel Nicolaus.

In sector news, Nasdaq (NDAQ 30.38, +0.91) rose 3.1% after reports indicated the exchange has held preliminary talks with Carlyle Group regarding a possible deal to go private. However, negotiations have stalled over a purchase price.

Looking at the S&P 500 breakdown, financials (+0.4%), utilities (+0.2%), and technology (+0.1%) saw relative strength. Meanwhile, energy (-0.6%), consumer discretionary (-0.3%), and materials (-0.2%) lagged.

Tomorrow's economic data will be limited to the January Treasury budget. This report will be released at 14:00 ET. Among notable earnings, Avon Products (AVP 17.28, +0.43) and Coca-Cola (KO 38.61, -0.16) will report their quarterly results ahead of the open.

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

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