Day Traders Diary


The stock market rallied steadily throughout the trading day despite starting the session on a lower note. Small caps led the way with the Russell 2000 climbing 1.3% while the S&P 500 advanced 0.6%.
The benchmark index was down as much as 0.6% at the start of the session after overnight weakness in the futures market set the stage for a lower open. The losses in futures coincided with a wave of yen strength that once again stoked fears about potential forced unwinds of the yen-based carry trade. Adding to the early weakness was a disappointing retail sales report for January.
Even though stocks opened lower, the S&P 500 found support at its 50-day moving average in the 1810 area. The index also drew strength from the retreat in the yen as the dollar/yen pair climbed off its low just under the 101.75 level.
Strikingly, the rally in equities continued even as the dollar/yen pair spent the afternoon in a narrow range while Treasuries never surrendered their morning gains. In fact, the 10-yr note extended its morning advance, sending its yield lower by six basis points to 2.73%.
It should be noted that the advance in equities took place amid below average volume, which could have exacerbated movements in some prices. Only 627 million shares changed hands at the NYSE floor versus a 200-day average of 717 million.
All ten sectors posted gains with materials (+1.0%) and utilities (+1.2%) ending in the lead. The rate-sensitive utilities sector benefited from the retreat in yields while materials drew strength from steelmakers and miners. The Market Vectors Steel ETF (SLX 47.05, +0.44) gained 0.9% while Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX 25.87, +1.10) jumped 4.4%. On a related note, gold futures rose 0.4% to $1300.40/ozt, ending above the $1300.00 mark for the first time since early November.
Elsewhere, the largest S&P 500 sector, technology (+0.9%) shook off the disappointing guidance provided by Cisco Systems (CSCO 22.27, -0.58), and rallied on the back of chipmakers. NVIDIA (NVDA 17.36, +0.53) gained 3.2% in reaction to its above-consensus results while the broader PHLX Semiconductor Index settled higher by 1.2%.
Other heavily-weighted groups were mixed with respect to the broader market. Health care (+0.8%) outperformed while consumer discretionary (+0.4%), energy (+0.4%), financials (+0.4%), and industrials (+0.2%) lagged.
Looking back at the economic data:
Retail sales fell 0.4% in January after declining a downwardly revised 0.1% (from +0.2%) in December. The consensus expected no growth in January. The report was discouraging and many are going to point to extreme winter weather conditions as the primary cause for the larger-than-expected decline. That scenario holds some truth as sectors that are normally affected by weather conditions such as motor vehicle sales (-2.1%) and restaurants (-0.6%) saw significant pullbacks. However, spending in general was weaker across the board. That could signal that the spending out of savings that occurred in December was a one-time event related to the holidays and not the start of a new trend.
The weekly initial claims level increased to 339,000 from an unrevised 331,000 while the consensus expected an increase to 335,000. The claims data have shown some choppiness, likely the result of volatility from the extreme winter weather conditions. In general, claims have not deviated from its 330,000 - 340,000 trend. These levels normally support payroll growth in the neighborhood of 185,000 - 200,000 jobs per months.
Business inventories increased 0.5% in December after increasing 0.4% in November while the consensus expected an increase of 0.4%.Total inventories consist of manufacturers, merchant wholesalers, and retails. Both manufacturers (0.5%) and wholesaler (0.3%) inventories were announced prior to the total inventory release. The only unknown was retailer inventories, which increased 0.6% in December after increasing 0.8% in November.
Tomorrow, January export prices ex-agriculture and import prices ex-oil will be released at 8:30 ET while Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization for January will be announced at 9:15 ET. The day's data will be topped off by a 9:55 ET release of the preliminary Michigan Consumer Sentiment survey for February.

Nasdaq Composite +1.5% YTD
S&P 500 -1.0% YTD
Russell 2000 -1.3% YTD
Dow Jones Industrial Average -3.3% YTD

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