Day Traders Diary


The major averages began today's session on a positive note, but the initial strength was unable to hold throughout the day. The Dow managed to settle near its highs while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq finished near their lows.

The first sign of weakness manifested itself when the Nasdaq turned negative due to selling pressure in the technology sector. The sector and the tech-heavy index underperformed as large cap names weighed. Apple (AAPL 425.66, -5.48), Google (GOOG 831.38, -7.22), and Microsoft (MSFT 28.09, -0.26) all lost between 0.9% and 1.3% with Microsoft declining after European regulators imposed a $731 million fine resulting from an antitrust case.

Though major tech components underperformed, the remainder of the sector held up relatively well. Chipmakers traded ahead of the broader market and the PHLX Semiconductor Index tacked on 0.1%.

Today's underperformance also came from the consumer discretionary sector where Staples (SPLS 12.34, -0.95) fell 7.2% after its quarterly report beat on earnings and missed on revenue. Meanwhile, the broader SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT 68.44, -0.24) slid 0.4%.

Although technology and consumer discretionary trailed behind the broader market, two other cyclical sectors, financials and materials, led the way. Financials built on the relative strength of major banks and the SPDR Financial Select Sector ETF (XLF 18.06, +0.12) gained 0.7%.

Elsewhere, materials climbed as steelmakers garnered buying interest throughout the day. The Market Vectors Steel ETF (SLX 45.55, +1.08) advanced 2.4%. The mixed performance from cyclical sectors appeared to be indicative of today's indecision in the market. Defensively-oriented consumer staples, telecom, and utilities all finished among the day's biggest laggards while health care settled with slim gains.

In the currency market, the British pound and the euro lagged notably against the dollar. As a result, the dollar index climbed steadily through the day, finishing higher by 0.5% near 82.50.

Trading volume was below average as 684 million shares changed hands on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

The market received a healthy dose of economic data today. In addition, the Federal Reserve released its March Beige Book. In the summary of economic activity from the 12 districts, most described growth as "modest to moderate". Service demand was described as generally positive while automobile sales were characterized as strong in most districts. Similarly, a number of regions saw an increase in tourism.

With regards to prices, modest pressure was reported with certain raw materials seeing a rise in prices.

Reviewing today's remaining data, factory orders declined 2.0% in January after increasing a downwardly revised 1.3% (from 1.8%) in December. The consensus expected the reading to indicate a decline of 2.2%. As the advance durable goods report already showed, the decline in orders was a result of weaker aircraft demand with those orders falling 45.7% in January.

According to today's ADP Employment Change report, the private sector added 198,000 jobs during February. Today's reading came in ahead of the consensus (150,000), and indicated the services sector was responsible for the bulk of the job gains.

In tomorrow's economic news, weekly initial claims, continuing claims, January trade balance, fourth quarter productivity and unit labor costs will all be reported at 8:30 ET. The final data point of the day will come in form of January consumer credit. This report will be released at 15:00 ET.

Also note the Bank of England, European Central Bank, and the Bank of Japan are all set to announce their interest rate decisions.

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