Day Traders Diary


The major averages ended the last session of the holiday-shortened week with slim gains. The S&P 500 added 0.4%, and notched its highest close of all-time, eclipsing the previous record close set on October 9, 2007.

The day began on a rather uneventful note, but the flat open was followed by a brief stumble which sent the S&P 500 into negative territory after the latest reading of the Chicago PMI missed expectations.

For March, the Purchasing Managers' Index fell to 52.4 from the 56.8 reported in the February report. Meanwhile, the consensus had expected a smaller decline, to 56.5.

The subsequent weakness was quickly bought up, which enabled the benchmark average to spend the rest of the day in a steady upward climb.

Although equities settled with gains, today's advance was paced primarily by defensively-minded groups. Health care and utilities led the broader market for the duration of the session, and ended as the top performing sectors on the day.

Notably, the health care sector ended the month as the top performing group. Further, having gained 15.2% year-to-date, the sector is also the best performer so far in 2013.

Today's other outperformers included industrials and materials. However, their gains were largely the result of rebound trade after the growth-oriented groups saw some weakness over the past two weeks.

The SPDR Materials Select Sector ETF (XLB 39.18, +0.15) settled higher by 0.4%, but even with today's gain, the sector ETF ended the month as the second weakest performer, trailing only behind telecom services.

The weakness of the materials sector is indicative of the persisting growth concerns. These same worries are being reflected by the price of copper futures, which fell 1.1% to $3.405 per pound, to end the quarter at their lowest level since November of last year.

While materials found themselves near the lead, cyclical financials and technology ended as the weakest performers.

Major bank stocks remained under pressure since the first Cypriot bailout proposal was unveiled two weeks ago. Morgan Stanley (MS 21.98, -0.31) was the weakest performer among the majors and the SPDR Financial Select Sector ETF (XLF 18.21, +0.05) registered a slim gain of 0.3% in today's action. However, even with today's gain, the bank sector ETF is down 1.6% since last Monday.

Elsewhere, the technology sector was unable to climb too far above yesterday's close as Apple (AAPL 442.66, -9.42) weighed. The largest tech stock sold off steadily throughout the day before ending lower by 2.1% Also of note, BlackBerry (BBRY 14.44, -0.12) slipped 0.8% after beating on earnings on below-consensus revenue.

Reviewing the final sector performance, utilities (+1.3%), health care (+1.0%), industrials (+0.6%), and materials (+0.5%) led the way. On the downside, energy (-0.3%), financials (+0.2%), and technology (+0.3%) lagged.

Looking back at the day's economic data, the latest weekly initial jobless claims count totaled 357,000. This was higher than the 338,000 that had been expected by the consensus. Today's tally was also above the revised prior week count of 341,000. As for continuing claims, they fell to 3.050 million from 3.077 million.

The third estimate of third quarter GDP showed growth of 0.4%, which was better than the 0.3% that had been expected by the consensus. Meanwhile, the third quarter GDP Deflator was revised up to 1.0%.

Note that equity and bond markets will be closed tomorrow in observance of Good Friday. However, a handful of economic data points will be reported on Friday. February personal income, personal spending and core PCE prices will all be reported at 8:30 ET. Lastly, the final March Michigan Consumer Sentiment Survey will be released at 9:55 ET.

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