Day Traders Diary


The S&P 500 punctuated an uneventful session with a modest gain, adding 0.1% to extend its October advance to 4.8%.

Stocks alternated between gains and losses through the first two hours of action before the S&P climbed to a fresh record high of 1764.99. Final-hour selling cut the S&P's gain in half, but the index still finished ahead of the Dow (unch) and the tech-heavy Nasdaq (-0.1%), which was challenged by its flat line throughout the session.

Although the third-quarter earnings season is far from being over, today featured just a handful of notable reports. Health care components caught the eye of some participants with Biogen (BIIB 254.43, +2.17) reporting solid results and Merck (MRK 45.35, -1.19) beating bottom-line estimates on below-consensus revenue. Although Merck weighed, the broader health care sector (+0.3%) drew strength from the 6.7% gain in Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY 52.02, +3.25) after the company announced positive clinical trial data.

Generally speaking, countercyclical sectors followed in health care's lead as consumer staples (+1.2%) and telecom services (+0.4%) outperformed while utilities (-0.2%) lagged.

Meanwhile, cyclical groups were a bit more mixed. Energy (+0.1%) and technology (+0.3%) finished in positive territory while consumer discretionary (-0.2%), financials (-0.2%), industrials (-0.1%), and materials (-0.6%) trailed the S&P.

The technology sector ended among the leaders with its top component, Apple (AAPL 529.88, +3.92), adding 0.7% ahead of its after-hours earnings report. However, the Nasdaq could not build on the relative strength of the sector as momentum names like Facebook (FB 50.23, -1.72), (PCLN 1060.15, -10.70), and Netflix (NFLX 314.00, -14.03) weighed.

Also of note, the industrial space was little changed as defense contractors and transports headed in opposite directions. The PHLX Defense Index shed 0.3% as the second largest component, Boeing (BA 129.88, -1.31), fell 1.0%. On the upside, the Dow Jones Transportation Average rose 0.4% as 12 of 20 members advanced.

Treasuries held inside narrow ranges throughout the session, and the 10-yr yield ended at 2.52%.

Trading volume was in-line with average as just over 730 million shares changed hands on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Today's economic data was limited to September industrial production and pending home sales.

Industrial production increased 0.6% after rising 0.4% in August ( consensus +0.3%). That was the largest monthly increase since February.

The headline number is undoubtedly striking for its perceived strength. However, that thought process is actually a misnomer. Rather than coming from manufacturing growth, almost the entire gain came from a 4.4% increase in utilities production. After five consecutive months of declines from cooler-than-normal temperatures, utility production returned to more normal levels as weather conditions reverted to their averages.

Manufacturing growth, which is key for economic growth, increased a very modest 0.1% in September, down from a 0.5% gain in August.

Separately, pending home sales for September tumbled 5.6%, which was worse than the 1.3% decrease forecast by the consensus. Today's reading followed last month's decrease of 1.6%.

Tomorrow, September retail sales and Producer Price Index will be reported at 8:30 ET, August Case-Shiller 20-City Index will cross the wires at 9:00 ET, and August business inventories will be announced at 10:00 ET. Also at 10:00 ET, the October Consumer Confidence report will be released.

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