The Week In Review


The stock market ended a defensive week on a woeful note with the S&P 500 (-1.9%) diving below its 100-day moving average (2,031). The benchmark index lost 3.8% since last Friday, while the Nasdaq (-2.2%) underperformed, falling 4.1% for the week.


The bulk of today's weakness unfolded during the first half of the day while afternoon action saw the key indices slip to fresh lows. The early weakness followed an overnight session, which featured news from China, indicating the People's Bank of China nudged the yuan to a four-year low against the dollar (6.4553). This stoked up concerns about China's deflation being exported to other economies while continued weakness in commodities compounded those worries.


Furthermore, reports of trouble in the junk bond arena weighed on sentiment after it came to light that Third Avenue Management is liquidating its high-yield Focused Credit Fund and barring investor withdrawals while it is doing so. This invited fears about other bond funds with similar exposure while junk bonds faced daylong pressure that sent the iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate ETF (HYG 79.52, -1.62) to its lowest close since July 2009.


All ten sectors ended the day in negative territory and the market saw no dip-buying during the afternoon. To be fair, the lack of an afternoon rebound was not a shock considering the Federal Reserve is likely to introduce another wrinkle into the fold next week when the central bank is widely expected to announce the first fed funds rate hike since June 2006.


The continued weakness in commodity prices took its toll on cyclical energy (-3.4%) and materials (-2.7%) sectors. The energy space widened this week's loss to 6.5% while crude oil also struggled, falling 3.2% to $35.62/bbl, to end the week lower by 10.9%.


Meanwhile, the remaining cyclical sectors fared a bit better, but that was a small victory considering the "best" performing growth-sensitive sector still lost 1.6%. The industrial sector settled just a step ahead of the broader market thanks to strength in select railroad names after it was reported Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B 130.31, -1.40) is considering a bid for Norfolk Southern (NSC 89.53, +1.85). On a related note, the Dow Jones Transportation Average ended in line with the S&P 500.


The 1.9% gain in the shares of NSC represented one of few bright spots in the market as declining issues at the NYSE outpaced advancers by a 7:1 margin.


Treasuries rallied throughout the day, ending on their highs with the 10-yr yield sliding ten basis points to 2.13%.


The Friday retreat invited above-average volume as nearly a billion shares changed hands at the NYSE floor.


Economic data included PPI, Retail Sales, Michigan Sentiment, and Business Inventories:


The Producer Price Index report for November produced some better than expected readings, with both total PPI and core PPI, which excludes food and energy, increasing 0.3%

The median estimate of economists polled by called for a 0.1% decline in total PPI and a 0.1% increase in core PPI

On a year-over-year basis, the index for final demand is down 1.1%, which is the tenth consecutive 12-month decline. Core PPI is up 0.5%

The November Retail Sales report showed a below-consensus increase of 0.2% ( consensus +0.3%), yet sales excluding autos (+0.4%) were stronger than expected ( consensus +0.3%) while core retail sales, which exclude autos, gasoline station, and building materials sales, were up a healthy 0.6%

Core retail sales factor into the goods component of personal consumption expenditures in the GDP report, so this November data can be thought of as a positive input

The preliminary reading for the University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment for December was 91.8, which was up slightly from the final November reading of 91.3 and nearly matched the consensus estimate of 91.6

The improvement stemmed from a better feeling about current conditions, evidenced by a jump in the Current Economic Conditions Index to 107.0 from 104.3

Total business inventories were unchanged in October following a downwardly revised 0.1% increase (from 0.3%) in September

The consensus expected business inventories to be up 0.1%

Manufacturer inventories (-0.1%) and merchant wholesaler inventories (-0.1%) were already known. Retailer inventories were the only unknown and they increased 0.1% in October on top of a 0.8% increase in September

Investors will not receive any economic data on Monday.


Nasdaq Composite +4.2% YTD

S&P 500 -2.3% YTD

Dow Jones Industrial Average -3.1% YTD

Russell 2000 -6.6% YTD

Week in Review: Stocks and Commodities Slide


The major averages began the trading week on a cautious note with the Dow (-0.7%), Nasdaq (-0.8%), and S&P 500 (-0.7%) registering comparable losses. Equity indices retreated through the first two hours of the Monday session and the lack of intraday bargain hunting kept the key averages near their lows into the afternoon. The S&P 500 erased a third of its advance from Friday, but managed to settle above its 200-day moving average (2,065). Cyclical sectors were at the forefront of the retreat with energy (-3.7%) diving to the bottom of the leaderboard at the start of the trading day. The growth-sensitive group accelerated its slide during the late morning as crude oil cracked a new low for the year, dipping beneath the $38.00/bbl mark. The energy component settled lower by 5.9% at $37.63/bbl after sliding from its overnight high near $39.75/bbl.


The stock market endured a shaky session on Tuesday, but the key indices managed to recover a portion of their losses by the close. The S&P 500 settled in the middle of its trading range, surrendering 0.7%, while the Nasdaq Composite (-0.1%) outperformed throughout the day. Equities began the day under heavy pressure after the overnight session featured some disappointing economic data from China. Specifically, the country's November trade surplus narrowed to $54.10 billion from $61.64 billion (expected surplus of $63.30 billion) as exports fell 6.8% year-over-year (consensus -5.0%; previous -6.9%) and imports declined 8.7% (expected -12.6%; last -18.8%). The smaller than expected trade surplus re-invited the same global growth concerns that have been plaguing the market throughout the year. Accordingly, commodities retreated with crude oil falling more than 2.0% before pulling back. The energy component made a brief appearance in the green, but could not avoid a lower close, slipping 0.3% to $37.51/bbl after marking a session low near $36.64/bbl. The rebound in crude helped alleviate some of the pressure in the stock market, but the S&P 500 could not return above its 200-day moving average (2,064), which served as resistance.


On Wednesday, the market ended on a broadly lower note with the S&P 500 surrendering 0.8% after being up 0.8% in the early going. The benchmark index returned below its 200-day moving average (2,064) while the Nasdaq (-1.5%) underperformed throughout the day. The early portion of the midweek session appeared to have the makings of a rebound, but the opening strength was entirely due to significant gains in two commodity-related sectors. The materials space (+3.1%) ended comfortably in the lead after it was reported that Dow Chemical (DOW 56.97, +6.07) and DuPont (DD 74.49, +7.89) are in advanced merger talks. Both names surged 11.9% with DuPont's strength keeping the Dow ahead of the broader market.


Thursday ended on a higher note with the market putting an end to its three-day skid. The S&P 500 climbed 0.2%, but could not hold posture above its 50-day moving average (2,054). Meanwhile, the Dow (+0.5%) and Nasdaq (+0.4%) settled ahead of the benchmark index. The Thursday advance did not occur without some theatrics as the S&P 500 marked a morning high during the first 90 minutes of the day and followed that with a return to its flat line. The benchmark index charged to a fresh high in the early afternoon, but backtracked from that level to end in the lower third of today's range. Equity indices spent the first hour of action near their flat lines, but the energy sector (+0.6%) displayed relative strength from the start, which underpinned the advance. The sector narrowed this week's loss to 3.2%, ending in the lead even though crude oil fell 1.0% to $36.80/bbl. The energy component continued sliding in electronic trade, which forced some backtracking in the sector and the broader market.