Day Traders Diary


Equities settled with strong gains as the S&P 500 climbed 1.0%.

Although stocks ended near their highs, an afternoon headline from a hacked Twitter account of the Associated Press suggested two explosions occurred at the White House, sending the S&P lower by 15 points and back to its flat line before returning to session highs. The entire episode unfolded within the matter of five minutes.

Overseas developments primed U.S. equities for an upbeat start to the session. Although economic data from the old continent was largely disappointing, commentary from the region overshadowed the data.

Manufacturing and Services PMI reports from France and Germany came in below 50, a level which indicates contraction. This fueled speculation about a possible European Central Bank rate cut at its upcoming policy meeting. In addition, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was quoted as saying the policy of austerity "has reached its limits."

The talk of further monetary easing combined with Mr. Barroso's comments buoyed European indices, and contributed to an upbeat start to the U.S. session.

Financials and technology led today's advance with bank stocks outperforming notably. The SPDR Financial Select Sector ETF (XLF 18.42, +0.32) settled higher by 1.8% after Discover Financial Services (DFS 44.34, +0.73) and Dow component Travelers (TRV 86.35, +1.77) reported better-than-expected earnings.

Elsewhere, the tech space saw broad gains and Netflix (NFLX 216.99, +42.62) surged 24.4% following its bottom-line beat. Chipmakers also rallied on the back of above-consensus quarterly results from ARM Holdings (ARMH 46.32, +6.08) and Texas Instruments (TXN 35.70, +0.89). Meanwhile, the broader PHLX Semiconductor Index advanced 2.1%. Also of note, the largest tech stock, Apple (AAPL 406.13, +7.46), gained 1.9% ahead of its quarterly report, which will be released this evening.

The discretionary space was another group which displayed considerable strength thanks to retailers and homebuilders. Coach (COH 55.55, +4.96) jumped 9.8% after beating on earnings while the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT 71.56, +0.84) climbed 1.2%.

Also of note, the SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (XHB 29.65, +0.74) rose 2.6% after five builders were upgraded at Barclays. In addition, today's economic data contributed to the sector outperformance.

New home sales increased 1.7% in March to 417,000. There was no revision to the February report, which indicated 411,000 new homes were sold. That March number is still down from the recent January peak when 445,000 homes were sold. The consensus expected sales to increase to 415,000.

Inventory levels inched higher, rising from 150,000 in February to 153,000 in March. That represents a 4.4-month supply and is still well below levels considered normal. Like existing homes, new home inventories should trend around a 6.0-month supply when the industry is in good shape.

Tomorrow, the weekly MBA Mortgage Index will be reported at 7:00 ET while March durable orders and durable orders ex-transportation will be announced at 8:30 ET. On the earnings front, Boeing (BA 88.18, +1.24) and Ford Motor (F 13.36, +0.30) will shed light on their first quarter results before the opening bell.

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