The trading day is done, and for many participants, it was over before it began. The low trading volume said as much, as did the small changes in the major indices which held to tight trading ranges throughout the session.
Price returns ranged from down 0.3% for the Dow Jones Industrial Average to up 0.1% for the Nasdaq Composite, which established another record high.
The lack of concerted movement was not surprising considering the large gains registered on Tuesday left many participants convinced that the turkey-day work was done and that the time had arrived to settle in for the Thanksgiving holiday. Markets will be closed on Thursday and the stock and bond markets will have early closes at 1:00 p.m. ET and 2:00 p.m. ET, respectively, on Friday.
While there wasn't much movement today at the index level, there were some notable moves in individual stocks. Standouts in that regard include the likes of Deere & Co. (DE 145.33, +6.10, +4.4%), Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE 13.10, -1.02, -7.2%), GameStop (GME 17.38, +0.65, +3.9%), and Guess? (GES 15.62, -2.33, -13.0%), all of which reported earnings results after yesterday's close.
Separately, there was notable strength in shares of Apple (AAPL 174.96, +1.82, +1.1%) and Amazon.com (AMZN 1156.16, +16.67, +1.5%), both of which are expected to be big beneficiaries of the holiday selling season, which will ramp up excitedly on Thursday. In the same vein, a number of retail issues exhibited relative strength in front of Black Friday.
From a sector standpoint, the telecommunications sector (+1.7%) had the best showing as industry leaders Verizon (VZ 47.12, +0.94, +2.0%) and AT&T (T 34.86, +0.53, +1.5%) were pushed higher on speculation the FCC may soon roll back net neutrality rules.
The energy sector (+0.4%) was next in line, getting a boost from rising oil prices ($57.98, +$1.15, +2.0%), which benefited from a weaker dollar, reports of a drawdown in oil inventories, and some defensive posturing in front of the holiday that also showed up in the Treasury market. The yield on the 10-yr note slipped four basis points to 2.32%.
All other sector moves were limited to down 0.4% to up 0.1%.
For the most part, the major indices were non-responsive to news today, including the release of the FOMC Minutes for the October 31-November 1 meeting, which contained the admission that "several participants expressed concerns about a potential buildup of financial imbalances" given elevated asset valuations and low financial market volatility.
Some misgivings about the low inflation readings were also expressed in the minutes, but overall, there was no change in the market's perception that the Fed is inclined to raise the target range for the fed funds rate at its December meeting. That consideration was reflected in the fed funds futures market, which was unchanged from Tuesday in showing a 100% probability of a rate hike at the December meeting.
There was a good bit of economic data released today, although none of it stirred any concern -- or conviction -- among today's participants.
- The Durable Goods Orders report for October revealed a 1.2% decrease in orders (Briefing.com consensus +0.4%) that was led by a 4.3% drop in new orders for transportation equipment. Excluding transportation, orders were up 0.4% (Briefing.com consensus +0.5%) on the heels of an upwardly revised 1.1% increase (from +0.7%) for September.
- The key takeaway from the report is that business spending decelerated in October, yet there is little reason at this juncture to think that deceleration is more than some normal slowing following some nice-sized gains in previous months.
- Initial claims for the week ending November 18 decreased by 13,000 to 239,000, as expected, leaving claims in the sweet spot they have been for some time. Continuing claims for the week ending November 11 increased by 36,000 to 1.904 million.
- The key takeaway from the report is that it covers the period in which the household survey for the November employment report was conducted, so it should feed economists' expectations for another solid month of nonfarm payroll gains.
- The University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Index for November was revised to 98.5 (Briefing.com consensus 97.9) from the preliminary reading of 97.8. The upward revision was a byproduct of an upward adjustment in the reading for the expectations index. The final reading for October was 100.7, which was a decade peak, so consumer sentiment remains at lofty levels.
- The key takeaway from the report is that consumers are feeling more confident in their expectations for income, employment, and inflation, which could bode well for future spending activity.
- Nasdaq Composite +27.6% YTD
- Dow Jones Industrial Average +19.1% YTD
- S&P 500 +16.0% YTD
- S&P Mid Cap 400 +11.9%
- Russell 2000 +11.9% YTD