Day Traders Diary



The stock market finished the midweek session on a lower note despite showing considerable strength in the early going. The S&P 500 (-1.4%) lost its 100-day moving average (2,010) and settled behind the Nasdaq Composite (-0.9%) while the Russell 2000 (-1.7%) lagged throughout the day.


Equities appeared to be on solid footing at the start with the Nasdaq up 1.0% after Apple (AAPL 115.31, +6.17) reported better than expected results for the quarter and issued strong guidance. The stock surged 5.7% and helped the technology sector (-0.1%) finish near its flat line while most of the remaining sectors struggled.


The benchmark index traded little changed ahead of the afternoon release of the latest policy statement from the Fed, but slumped into the close. Once again, the policy directive reiterated the Fed's intent to remain patient in determining the appropriate timing for the first rate hike, which helped send Treasuries to new highs. The 10-yr yield fell ten basis points to 1.73% while the 30-yr yield dropped 11 basis points to register its lowest close on record (2.28%).


The Fed described U.S. economic growth as 'solid' while categorizing job growth as 'strong.' The central bank did not spend much time discussing overseas developments, which could help explain some of the selling that developed after the statement was released. Furthermore, the FOMC showed little concern over low inflation, saying that while the price level is expected to decline in the near term, a gradual return to 2.0% should follow once the 'transitory effects of lower energy prices and other factors dissipate.'


Today, however, energy prices deteriorated further with crude oil dropping 3.6% to $44.53/bbl. The energy component continued slipping in electronic trade while the energy sector plunged 3.9% to widen its January decline to 5.7%.


The energy sector resides near the bottom of the January leaderboard with only financials (-2.0%) showing a larger decline for the month (-6.3%). Together, the underperformance of the pair serves as a reminder of the global growth concerns that have been at the forefront so far in 2015.


Elsewhere among influential sectors, consumer discretionary (-1.3%) and health care (-1.5%) finished a little behind the market while industrials (-0.9%) outperformed. Retailers and media names pressured the discretionary sector while biotechnology weighed on health care. The iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB 318.98, -7.00) lost 2.2%.


For its part, the industrial space ended ahead of the broader market thanks to upbeat earnings and guidance from Dow component Boeing (BA 139.64, +7.16). In other earnings news, Electronic Arts (EA 54.61, +6.20) and Freescale Semiconductor (FSL 31.16, +4.81) surged 12.8% and 18.3%, respectively, after beating estimates.


The afternoon slide fueled a rush for portfolio protection, evidenced by a 17.9% spike in the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX 20.30, +3.08). The near-term volatility measure returned to last week's levels with the entire move taking place after the FOMC statement.


Today's participation was a little above average with 835 million shares changing hands at the NYSE floor.


Economic data was limited to the weekly MBA Mortgage Index, which fell 3.2% to follow the prior week's surge of 16.1%.


Tomorrow, weekly Initial Claims will be reported at 8:30 ET ( consensus 301K) while the Pending Home Sales report for December (consensus 0.6%) will be released at 10:00 ET.


Nasdaq Composite -2.1% YTD

Russell 2000 -2.5% YTD

S&P 500 -2.8% YTD

Dow Jones Industrial Average -3.5% YTD

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