The Week In Review


The stock market finished an upbeat week on a lower note with the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite losing 1.0% while the S&P 500 shed 0.3% with four sectors ending in the red.
Equities began the day on a strong note with no economic data to influence the trading sentiment; however, quadruple witching and index rebalancing contributed to additional volatility and volume. With nearly two billion shares changing hands at the New York Stock Exchange, today's final volume was less than 500 million below the 2.44 billion collective total registered between Monday and Thursday.
The S&P 500 surged out of the gate, notching a fresh intraday record high at 1884.00, but was unable to establish a new closing high above the March 7 settlement of 1878.04. After spiking at the open, the benchmark average spent the rest of the session in a steady retreat.
While the S&P 500 did not slip into the red until just before 14:00 ET, the Nasdaq underperformed from the open, making its first appearance in negative territory around 10:00 ET. Biotechnology pressured the index from the early going with the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB 246.01, -12.24) spending the session in a steady slide before settling lower by 4.7% on heaviest volume since October 2005. The ETF ended 9.9% below its February high, trimming its 2014 gain to 8.4%. In addition to pressuring the Nasdaq, biotechnology contributed to considerable weakness in the health care sector (-1.5%), which ended well behind the remaining nine sectors.
Although no other sector posted a loss larger than 0.6%, other top-weighted groups like technology (-0.5%) and consumer discretionary (-0.6%) underperformed while financials (+0.01%) finished a bit ahead of the broader market after being up as much as 1.1% at the start of the session.
Losses in the technology sector were paced by chipmakers with Intel (INTC 25.17, -0.25) falling 1.0% while the broader PHLX Semiconductor Index lost 0.9%. On the software side, shares of Symantec (SYMC 18.20, -2.71) caught a virus, plunging 12.9% after the company unexpectedly terminated Chief Executive Officer Steve Bennett, naming Michael Brown interim president and CEO.
Elsewhere, the discretionary space was pressured by homebuilders and Nike (NKE 75.21, -4.06). Top-weighted homebuilders posted losses across the board with the iShares Dow Jones US Home Construction ETF (ITB 24.17, -0.40) slumping 1.6%. For its part, Nike tumbled 5.1% after its cautious outlook overshadowed above-consensus earnings and revenue.
Even though three of the four largest sectors underperformed notably, the broader market was kept from registering additional losses by the relative strength among the second-tier sectors. Consumer staples (+0.03%), energy (+0.3%), and industrials (+0.1%) all finished ahead of the broader market. Materials (+0.5%), telecom services (-0.03%), and utilities (+0.8%) also ended ahead of the S&P 500, but their impact was limited since three sectors account for just 9.9% of the entire market.
With stocks under pressure, participants displayed demand for volatility protection, sending the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX 15.00, +0.48) higher by 3.3% after the near-term volatility measure tested early March lows at the start of the session.

Treasuries spent the entire day in a steady climb from their morning lows. The benchmark 10-yr yield fell three basis points to 2.74%.

Russell 2000 +2.8% YTD
Nasdaq Composite +2.4% YTD
S&P 500 +1.0% YTD
Dow Jones Industrial Average -1.7% YTD
Week in Review: Fed Chair Yellen Defines "Considerable Time"

All of the fear and loathing about the Sunday referendum in Crimea was set aside on Monday. Stock markets in Europe and the US rallied, not because there was a de-escalation of the standoff in Ukraine, but because there was no escalation of the standoff that would threaten global economic growth. As expected, Crimeans voted overwhelmingly in favor (95.5% of votes cast) of joining the Russian Federation. As expected, the outcome of the referendum was not accepted as valid by President Obama and EU leaders. Still, there were two points of relief that sparked a short-covering rally on Monday: (1) Military force has not been used and (2) hard-hitting economic sanctions had yet to be imposed. The early rush of buying activity was helped along by a positive showing out of China's stock market (+1.0%), which responded favorably to news of a new urbanization plan. Separately, there were reports that the People's Bank of China would expand the yuan's daily trading band to 2% from 1%.

The major averages finished the Tuesday session with solid gains, but outside of a few pockets of considerable relative strength, most sectors could be classified as reluctant participants in the daylong rally. Small caps led the way with the Russell 2000 climbing 1.5% while the S&P 500 advanced 0.7% with nine sectors posting gains. Prior to the open, equity indices were on track for a lower start to the session, but that changed in a hurry when comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin began making the rounds. Although Mr. Putin did not provide any groundbreaking insight, European markets and equity futures rallied when he said Russia does not want to see a break-up of Ukraine.

Wednesday's session ended in the red with small caps displaying the largest decline. The Russell 2000 lost 0.7% while the S&P 500 settled lower by 0.6% with all ten sectors ending in the red. Equity indices did not show much change during the first half of the session as participants awaited the latest policy statement from the Federal Reserve, but activity picked up considerably after the release of the directive. In response to a question as to what the Fed means by "considerable time" for keeping the current target range for the federal funds rate after the asset purchase program ends, Fed Chair Yellen said "probably six months." Selling activity accelerated after the remark and the fed funds futures market, which, last week, expected the first hike to take place in July, saw the expectations shift to April.

On Thursday, the major averages finished on an upbeat note with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.7%) in the lead. Small caps underperformed with the Russell 2000 adding 0.1% while the S&P 500 settled higher by 0.6% with nine sectors posting gains. Stocks began the day on the defensive amid cautious action overseas, but were quick to erase their early losses. The S&P 500 climbed out of the red during the first hour of action with most European indices following suit. The early advance was powered by the heavily-weighted financial (+1.7%) and technology (+0.7%) sectors, both of which continued their outperformance into the close. Outside of the two, the telecom services sector (+2.5%) was the only other area of relative strength, but it bears noting the group accounts for just 3.0% of the entire S&P 500.