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The stock market kicked off an abbreviated trading week with a sleepy Tuesday session that had the S&P 500 (+0.2%) locked in an eleven-point range while the tech-heavy Nasdaq (+0.1%) spent the bulk of the day near its flat line.
Broadly speaking, the market appeared to be little concerned with weekend developments overseas, making the price action more closely correlated with the gyrations in the oil market. The benchmark index returned to its session high just above the 2,100 mark during the final minutes of the day; however, that move was not correlated to anything in particular.
A ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia-backed rebels went into effect over the weekend, but the agreement only reduced fighting in the eastern part of the country. Most importantly, the truce failed to stop the assault on an important rail hub in Debaltseve, with rebel leaders claiming control of the area, according to the Associated Press.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin, who met Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban today, said the fate of Debaltseve could have been foreseen while the UN Security Council called for an immediate ceasefire.
Meanwhile in Brussels, yesterday's Eurogroup meeting with Greece provided little reason for optimism for a swift solution. The atmosphere at the negotiating table may have gotten a bit frostier today after Eurogroup officials struck down a proposal that was brought forth by France's Pierre Moscovici, and had the support of Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.
This morning's torrent of quotes from the Eurogroup was followed by more thunder from Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who was interviewed in Germany's Stern, and reiterated "The old austerity program is dead."
Despite Mr. Tsipras' comments, an afternoon report, attributed to unnamed sources, claimed that Greece will ask for an extension to the program that has been proclaimed dead. That report made the rounds in the early afternoon and helped nudge the S&P 500 to the 2,100 level.
Five sectors posted gains with health care (+0.7%) spending the entire session in the lead. The influential group was underpinned by biotechnology with the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB 326.82, +3.36) adding 1.0%.
The relative strength of the health care sector helped the benchmark index resist early weakness among cyclical sectors. Energy (+0.3%) was among the weakest performers in the early going, but the growth-sensitive sector perked up when crude oil erased its early morning loss. The energy component rallied 1.7% to $53.54/bbl after trading below the $52.00/bbl level this morning.
Elsewhere among cyclical sectors, financials (+0.3%) outperformed while the discretionary sector (-0.2%) was pressured by Amazon.com (AMZN 375.27, -6.56), which lost 1.7%. Automakers also struggled with Ford (F 16.11, -0.19) and General Motors (GM 37.24, -0.38) down 1.2% and 1.0%, respectively.
While the stock market maintained a narrow range, the same could not be said for Treasuries. The 10-yr note spent the day in a steady slide, sending the benchmark yield higher by 13 basis points to 2.15%. The selling may have occurred in anticipation of tomorrow's FOMC minutes from the January meeting that are likely to keep participants on guard for a potential rate hike.
Light participation was a theme last week and not much changed today with just 763 million shares changing hands at the NYSE floor.
Economic data was limited to the Empire Manufacturing Survey and NAHB Housing Market Index:
The Empire Manufacturing Survey for February registered a reading of 7.8, which was below the prior month's reading of 9.9 while the Briefing.com consensus expected an improvement to 9.0
The NAHB Housing Market Index for February slipped to 56 from 57 while the Briefing.com consensus expected an uptick to 58
Tomorrow, the weekly MBA Mortgage Index will be released at 7:00 ET while January Housing Starts (Briefing.com consensus 1.07 million), Building Permits (consensus 1.065 million), PPI (consensus -0.4%), and core PPI (expected 0.1%) will all be reported at 8:30 ET. The January Industrial Production (consensus 0.4%) and Capacity Utilization (expected 79.9%) reports will be released at 9:15 ET while the FOMC minutes from the January meeting will cross the wires at 14:00 ET.
All comments contained herein are for informational purposes only, and should not be considered as a solicitation to buy or sell any security. The firm does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information or make any warranties regarding results from it's usage.