Day Traders Diary


Stocks settled just off their best levels of the session with the S&P 500 gaining 0.4%.

After opening on a higher note, equities alternated between gains and losses until afternoon action sent the major indices to their highs. As a result, the Dow Jones Industrial Average notched a new record high while the S&P ended eight points away from its own all-time best.

The materials sector ended as the top performer amid broad strength. Dow component Alcoa (AA 8.39, 0.00) kicked off the first quarter reporting period with a bottom-line beat, but the company's revenue of $5.83 billion represented a 2.9% year-over-year decline, and fell short of the Capital IQ consensus estimate.

Steelmakers rallied across the board as the Market Vectors Steel ETF (SLX 43.23, +1.41) surged 3.4% to record its second largest one-day advance of the year. Note that today's gains occurred after the steel ETF had surrendered more than 17.0% this year.

Copper futures also saw strong gains after enduring recent weakness. The red metal rose 2.1% to $3.443 per pound.

While materials, energy, and technology ended in the lead, three economically-sensitive groups finished among the laggards.

The consumer discretionary sector lost ground as homebuilders and retailers weighed. The SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (XHB 29.27, -0.22) slipped 0.8%.

Meanwhile, retailers saw weakness across the board as the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT 70.30, -0.43) lost 0.6%. J.C. Penney (JCP 13.93, -1.94) sank 12.2% after the company's Board of Directors announced Chief Executive Officer Ron Johnson will be replaced by Mike Ullman, who has previously served as CEO.

The Dow Jones Transportation Average also saw notable underperformance. The bellwether complex shed 0.3% as airlines were unable to take off with the broader market. United Continental (UAL 29.29, -0.76) lost 2.5%. Including today's decline, the Transportation Average is down almost 3.0% so far in April.

Trading volume was a bit below average as 670 million shares changed hands on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Reviewing the day's sector performance, materials (+1.1%), technology (+0.8%), and energy (+0.8%) outperformed while utilities (-0.3%), consumer discretionary (-0.2%), and consumer staples (-0.1%) weighed.

Today's economic data was limited to wholesale inventories. Inventories declined 0.3% in February after increasing a downwardly revised 0.8% (from 1.2%) in January. The consensus expected wholesale inventories to increase 0.5%.

The drop in inventories was likely the result of better-than-expected sales growth. Wholesale sales jumped 1.7% in February after falling 0.8% in January. Wholesalers may not have been in position to maintain normal inventories levels given the size of the sales gain.

Tomorrow, the weekly MBA Mortgage Index will be reported at 7:00 ET. In addition, March Treasury budget and the minutes from the March 20th meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee will be released at 14:00 ET. On the earnings front, Family Dollar (FDO 59.80, +0.41) is set to report its quarterly results ahead of the opening bell.

The U.S. Treasury will hold a $21 billion reopening of 10-yr notes

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