Day Traders Diary


Equities spent the bulk of today's session near their highs before a late afternoon stumble dropped the S&P 500 back near the middle of its range. As a result, the benchmark average finished higher by 0.5%.

Notably, the Russell 2000, which tracks small cap stocks, ended lower by 0.5% after losing more than 1.0% yesterday.

Equities began today's session with solid gains amid an upbeat European trade. The overseas advance followed the release of several Manufacturing PMI readings across the eurozone. Although most reports exceeded expectations, all five remained below 50, signifying an ongoing contraction.

Domestically, the health care sector showed strength out of the gate with managed care stocks jumping after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said 2014 Medicaid Advantage and prescription drug benefit rates will increase by 3.3%. Dow component UnitedHealth Group (UNH 61.74, +2.77) gained 4.7% while the broader SPDR Health Care Select Sector ETF (XLV 46.74, +0.67) rose 1.5%.

The health care sector was not the only defensively-minded space which outperformed the broader market. Consumer staples and telecoms finished among the session leaders as well.

One cyclical group which finished among the leaders was the consumer discretionary sector. Apparel stocks provided support after Urban Outfitters (URBN 39.87, +1.46) gave an optimistic update on its first quarter sales.

Elsewhere in the discretionary space, Ford Motor (F 13.01, +0.11) and General Motors (GM 27.93, +0.13) settled with respective gains of 0.9% and 0.5% after reporting their monthly sales. In March, Ford saw its sales climb 6.0% to 236,160 vehicles while General Motors reported an increase of 6.4% to 245,950 units.

While discretionary shares ended firmly higher, the same could not be said for other growth-sensitive sectors.

Producers of basic materials saw a continuation of their recent weakness. Downbeat trade in steelmakers caused the Market Vectors Steel ETF (SLX 41.87, -1.06) to lose 2.5% while the broader SPDR Materials Select Sector ETF (XLB 38.46, -0.38) fell 1.0%. Since March 14, the sector ETF is down almost 4.0% while the S&P 500 is little changed over that time.

While materials spent the entire session in negative territory, intraday weakness sent the industrial sector to its lows, where it settled for the day. Transportation-related stocks contributed to the sector's softness, and the Dow Jones Transportation Average lost 1.2%. Airlines pressured the 20-stock complex after Delta (DAL 14.94, -1.31) trimmed its guidance, citing the sequester as one of the reasons for lower targets.

Trading volume was below average once again as 640 million shares changed hands on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Looking back at the final sector performance, health care (+1.4%), consumer staples (+1.1%), and consumer discretionary (+0.9%) paced the advance while materials (-0.9%), energy (-0.5%), and industrials (-0.1%) weighed.

Reviewing today's economic data, manufacturing orders rose 3.0% in February after declining an upwardly revised 1.0% (from -2.0%) in January. The consensus expected manufacturing orders to increase 2.6%.

Durable goods orders were revised down slightly from a 5.7% gain to 5.6%. A 75.0% increase in aircraft sales accounted for nearly the entire increase. Excluding transportation, durable goods orders fell 0.7%, which was slightly worse than the originally reported 0.5% decline.

Tomorrow, the weekly MBA Mortgage Index will be reported at 7:00 ET. In addition, March ADP Employment Change and ISM Services will be released at 8:15 ET and 10:00 ET, respectively.
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