Day Traders Diary


Equities finished today's session with firm gains and the S&P 500 settled higher by 0.8%. After starting the day on a positive note, the benchmark average spent the balance of the session in a six-point range.

An otherwise quiet session was interrupted by a brief morning stumble when Reuters cited a European lawmaker, who said the European parliament will push for depositors with more than EUR100,000 to face bail-ins under a new resolution law. The remark carried a similar tone to yesterday's comments from Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who hinted the framework of the Cypriot rescue package may be used again in the future.

Although the major averages ended firmly higher, defensive sectors were the clear winners while economically-sensitive groups trailed behind the broader market.

The health care space showed strength at the open, and led the S&P 500 throughout the day. In addition, consumer staples and utilities also found themselves in the top half of today's sector rankings.

Energy was the only economically-sensitive group which settled among the leaders. Crude oil contributed to the sector strength as the energy component climbed 1.5% to $96.26. Meanwhile, the SPDR Energy Select Sector (XLE 79.28, +0.83) ended higher by 1.1%.

Outside of energy, other cyclical sectors saw more limited gains. The consumer discretionary sector underperformed after February new home sales and March consumer confidence missed expectations.

New home sales in February hit an annualized rate of 411,000, which was down from January's revised rate of 431,000, and worse than the rate of 426,000 that had been broadly expected by the consensus. The news caused homebuilders to miss out on today's rally, and the iShares Dow Jones US Home Construction ETF (ITB 23.98, -0.05) settled lower by 0.2%.

Elsewhere, retailers underperformed after March consumer confidence slipped to 59.7 (66.9 consensus) from February's reading of 69.0. The SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT 70.29, +0.02) ended flat after being down as much as 0.6% intraday.

Also of note, producers of basic materials lagged after being the weakest performing group in each of the past three sessions. As a result, the SPDR Materials Select Sector ETF (XLB 39.04, +0.27) is down nearly 1.5% since last Wednesday's close. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 has added five points in that same timeframe.

While the S&P 500 ended firmly higher, the Russell 2000 did not share that optimism. The small cap index spent the bulk of the day near its unchanged level before a late-afternoon bid contributed to a gain of 0.3%.

Today's volume was the second lowest of the year as just over 558 million shares changed hands on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Looking back at the final sector rankings, health care (+1.2%), energy (+1.1%), utilities (+1.0%), and consumer staples (+0.9%) outperformed while industrials (+0.5%), consumer discretionary (+0.5%), and materials (+0.6%) lagged.

Reviewing today's remaining economic data, durable goods orders jumped 5.7% ( consensus +3.8%) in February, led by a 21.7% increase in transportation equipment orders that totaled $74.4 billion. The improvement was paced by a 95.3% gain in nondefense aircraft and parts that flowed from a large pickup in orders at Boeing (BA 86.62, +1.77). Excluding transportation, orders declined 0.5% ( consensus -0.2%).

The January Case-Shiller 20-city Home Price Index rose 8.1% while a 7.5% increase had been expected by the consensus. This follows the previous month's increase of 6.8%.

In tomorrow's economic news, the weekly MBA Mortgage Index will be reported at 7:00 ET and February pending home sales will be announced at 10:00 ET.

The U.S. Treasury will auction off $35 billion in 5-yr notes.
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