Day Traders Diary


 The major averages opened the shortened week on a losing note, succumbing to profit-taking activity in the face of some political angst. The S&P 500 finished Tuesday's session 0.3% lower, while the Nasdaq (-0.6%) and Russell 2000 (-1.4%) underperformed, weighed down principally by losses in the financial, semiconductor, transportation, and biotech groups.

Over the weekend, President-elect Trump may have instilled a sense of doubt about his administration's ability to smoothly implement the pro-growth policies that the stock market has rallied around. Mr. Trump's comments raised some concerns that he and the GOP could be on different pages regarding tax policy and the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.

The President-elect also restated his claim that drug companies will have to negotiate with the government on prices for drugs in Medicare and Medicaid. That view prompted a pullback in drug stocks, like Merck (MRK 61.48, -0.86, -1.4%) and Pfizer (PFE 32.06, -0.46, -1.4%), as well as many biotech issues, which could be seen in the underperformance of the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB 274.52, -5.49). The S&P 500 health care sector closed the day 0.5% lower.

On the other hand, the retail space received a nice bump after Mr. Trump voiced his thoughts on a potential border tax, stating that the current GOP plan is too complicated. Retailers, many of which source their goods overseas, pushed the SPDR 500 Retail ETF (XRT 44.36, +0.35) 0.8% higher on the hope that a punitive border tax on imported goods won't come to fruition as feared. Naturally, the consumer discretionary sector also benefited, posting a 0.2% gain for the day.

Energy was the only other cyclical sector to finish Tuesday's session in the green, adding 0.6% on the back of an uptick in crude oil. The commodity ended its trading day far below its session high at $52.46/bbl, an increase of 0.2%. The gain came amid a weakening U.S. dollar, which fell 1.2%.

In addition to strength in the eruo and the Japanese yen, the British Pound had a hand in pushing the greenback lower, rallying 3.0% after a Brexit speech from UK Prime Minister Theresa May and a Consumer Price Index report showing the highest year-over-year pace for inflation (+1.6%) for the UK since July 2014. Ms. May confirmed that Britain will leave the single market, but that it is aiming for a flexible and phased Brexit transition, which will be put to a parliamentary vote.  For good measure, President-elect Trump also expressed his belief that the dollar is "too strong."

On the earnings front, Morgan Stanley (MS 42.15, -1.66) reported better-than-expected top and bottom line results today, but traded down with the entire financial sector (-2.3%) as the stock saw some profit-taking activity. The negative response to Morgan Stanley's otherwise good news triggered some broader profit-taking efforts in the space. That selling picked up in the afternoon trade and drove the indices to new session lows before some late buying interest helped pare today's losses.

Financials will also headline tomorrow's earnings reports. Both Goldman Sachs (GS 235.74, -8.56) and Citigroup (C 58.38, -1.25) are scheduled to report before the opening bell. Investors will be looking for numbers that validate the sector's huge post-election run, but certainly after today's action, they will be watching more intently to see if Goldman Sachs and Citigroup report better-than-expected results and still trade lower.

In addition to energy and consumer discretionary, only four other sectors finished in positive territory -- utilities (+1.1%), real estate (+0.8%), telecom services (+0.4%), and consumer staples (+1.4%). Those four sectors combined have a roughly 18% weight in the S&P 500, so their gains were not enough to offset selling elsewhere.

The outperformance of the consumer staples sector was forged on the back of British American Tobacco's (BTI 113.10, -2.11) $49 billion offer to acquire the remaining 57.8% of Reynolds American (RAI 57.68, +1.71) that it does not already own, as well as a solid gain in sector heavyweights Walmart (WMT 68.42, +1.29, +1.9%), Procter & Gamble (PG 85.21, +1.20, +1.4%), and CVS Health (CVS 83.92, +1.94, +2.4%).

Reviewing today's lone economic report, the Empire Manufacturing Survey:

The Empire Manufacturing Survey for January fell to 6.5 from the prior month's reading of 9.0. The consensus estimate was pegged at 8.3.

Tomorrow will see a batch of economic data with the most notable reports being December CPI ( consensus 0.3%) and December Industrial Production ( consensus 0.6%). The two reports will cross the wires at 8:30 am ET and 9:15 am ET, respectively.

Wednesday's remaining economic reports will include the MBA Mortgage Index at 7:00 am ET, the NAHB Housing Market Index at 10:00 am ET, the Fed's Beige Book at 2:00 pm ET, and Net Long-Term TIC Flows at 4:00 pm ET.


Russell 2000 -0.3% YTD

Dow Jones Industrial Average +0.3% YTD

S&P 500 +1.3% YTD

Nasdaq Composite +2.9% YTD

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