Day Traders Diary


The stock market registered its third consecutive decline on Wednesday with the S&P 500 ending lower by 1.5%. The benchmark index settled below its 50-day moving average (2,067) while the Nasdaq Composite (-2.0%) underperformed throughout the day.


The S&P 500 hovered near its flat line during the opening hour, but high-beta groups like biotechnology, chipmakers, and transport stocks began showing weakness early on and continued their retreat throughout the day. As a result, eight sectors settled in the red with five ending behind the benchmark index.


Most notably, the technology sector surrendered 2.7% with chipmakers enduring even more aggressive selling. All 30 components of the PHLX Semiconductor Index (-4.6%) finished in the red with ARM Holdings (ARMH 49.90, -3.31) and Lam Research (LRCX 72.75, -6.01) leading the slide with respective losses of 6.2% and 7.6% while heavyweight Intel (INTC 29.89, -0.90) tumbled 2.9%.


The sharp losses within the tech sector pressured the Nasdaq while biotechnology also weighed on the index. The iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB 341.30, -14.65) slumped 4.1%, extending its week-to-date loss to 6.9%. Meanwhile, the health care sector (-1.8%) outperformed in the early going, but settled among the laggards. Shares of Merck (MRK 58.26, -0.37) contributed to the opening strength after announcing a new $10 billion share repurchase program, but ended lower by 0.5%. For its part, the health care sector narrowed its March gain to 0.8% while the remaining nine groups are down at least 1.1% for the month (consumer discretionary).


Elsewhere among countercyclical groups, the consumer staples sector (-0.2%) slipped into the red during the final hour, but still finished well ahead of the broader market thanks to a 34.9% surge in the shares of Kraft (KRFT 83.15, +21.83) after the company agreed to merge with H.J. Heinz. KRFT shareholders are expected to receive a special dividend of $16.50 when the deal closes.


Also of note, the industrial sector (-1.7%) lagged throughout the session amid broad weakness in transport stocks. The Dow Jones Transportation Average slid 2.0% to widen its Q1 decline to 4.6%. Airlines paced the retreat with four of five carriers losing more than 3.0%.


On the upside, the energy sector added 1.2% thanks to daylong strength in crude oil that sent the energy component higher by 3.5% to $49.19/bbl. WTI crude received a measure of support from dollar weakness as the Dollar Index (96.88, -0.32) slipped 0.3%.


Interestingly, Treasuries retreated alongside equities with the 10-yr yield climbing five basis points to 1.92%.


Economic data was limited to Durable Orders and MBA Mortgage Index:


Durable goods orders declined 1.4% in February after increasing a downwardly revised 2.0% (from 2.8%) in January while the consensus expected an increase of 0.4% 

Aircraft orders, which played a major role in the overall orders increase for January, reversed direction in February. Total aircraft orders -- defense and nondefense -- declined 14.0% in February after increasing 68.1% in January

Excluding transportation, durable goods orders declined 0.4% in February after declining a downwardly revised 0.7% (from 0.0%) in January. The consensus expected these orders to increase 0.3%.

The weekly MBA Mortgage Index rose 9.5% to follow last week's 3.9% decline

Tomorrow, weekly Initial Claims ( consensus 290K) will be reported at 8:30 ET.


Nasdaq Composite +3.0% YTD

Russell 2000 +2.4% YTD

S&P 500 +0.1% YTD

Dow Jones Industrial Average -0.6% YTD

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