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Equity indices halted their two-day win streak on Tuesday with the S&P 500 shedding 0.2%. The benchmark index surrendered its modest intraday gain during the final hour while the Nasdaq Composite (-0.1%) settled just ahead.
The major averages climbed out of the gate and hit their session highs during the initial 90 minutes; however, relative weakness among influential sectors like consumer discretionary (-0.5%), financials (-0.4%), and consumer staples (-0.4%) prevented the market from eclipsing the early high. Instead, equities spent the afternoon in a sideways drift and slid into negative territory shortly ahead of the close.
Only two sectors finished the day in the green with health care (+0.3%) holding the lead into the afternoon. The countercyclical group underperformed yesterday, but today's strength was fueled by biotechnology. The iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB 341.92, +3.07) jumped 0.9% and helped the Nasdaq Composite display relative strength throughout the day.
In addition to receiving support from biotechnology, the tech-heavy Nasdaq benefited from strength among chipmakers. That being said, the PHLX Semiconductor Index ended just above its flat line after being up more than 0.8%. Similarly, the broader technology sector (-0.15%) settled just ahead of the broader market while its largest component—Apple (AAPL 126.01, -1.34)—lost 1.1%.
Elsewhere among cyclical sectors, energy (+0.3%) outperformed, narrowing its 2015 decline to 1.2% as crude oil soared 3.5% to $53.89/bbl. Strikingly, oil spent the day in a steady climb even as the Dollar Index (97.95, +1.18) jumped 1.2%. Most notably, the greenback rallied 1.1% against the euro, sending the single currency to 1.0815.
Also of note, the industrial sector (-0.1%) could not stay out of the red, but that masked relative strength among transport stocks after FedEx (FDX 171.16, +4.49) announced it will acquire TNT Express (TNTEY 8.26, +1.71) for $4.8 billion. The Dow Jones Transportation Average gained 0.5% while FedEx spiked 2.7%, helping the Dow Jones Industrial Average (-0.03%) finish ahead of other indices.
On the downside, the consumer discretionary sector (-0.5%) was the weakest performer among cyclical groups. Homebuilders struggled throughout the day while retail names slumped during the afternoon. The iShares Dow Jones US Home Construction ETF (ITB 28.01, -0.50) lost 1.8% while SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT 100.63, -0.88) settled lower by 0.9%.
Treasuries retreated throughout the morning, but backtracked from their lows throughout the afternoon. The benchmark 10-yr yield ticked down one basis point to 1.89%.
Today's participation was well below average with fewer than 650 million shares changing hands at the NYSE floor.
Economic data was limited to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey and Consumer Credit:
The February Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey showed that job openings increased to 5.133 million from a revised rate of 4.965 million (from 4.998 million)
The Consumer Credit report for February was showed an increase of $15.50 billion while the Briefing.com consensus expected a reading of $12.50 billion
The prior month's credit growth was revised to $10.80 billion from $11.60 billion
Tomorrow, the weekly MBA Mortgage Index will be reported at 7:00 ET while the FOMC minutes from the latest policy meeting will be released at 14:00 ET.
Nasdaq Composite +3.7% YTD
Russell 2000 +4.0% YTD
S&P 500 +0.9 YTD
Dow Jones Industrial Average +0.3% YTD
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.