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U.S. stocks are eying a second straight day of gains, with central bank chatter bringing out the best of the bulls. This optimism has allowed a number of stocks to tag fresh peaks in today's session. On the NYSE, 200 individual equities have found their way to new highs, versus 11 at new lows. Elsewhere, 67 securities on the Nasdaq have reached a record apex, compared to 10 wallowing to new nadirs. Among stocks marking technical milestones today are General Electric Company (NYSE:span class="symbollink" ticker="GE">GE - 21.78), PulteGroup, Inc. (NYSE:span class="symbollink" ticker="PHM">PHM - 15.51), Panera Bread Co (NASDAQ:span class="symbollink" ticker="PNRA">PNRA - 168.78), and Manchester United PLC (NYSE:span class="symbollink" ticker="MANU">MANU - 12.22).
Dow darling GE hit a nearly four-year high of $21.93 today, after Bloomberg reported the company may be exploring the sale of its $2.2-billion stake in Thailand's Bank of Ayudhya PCL. Today's price action highlights the stock's impressive run on the charts over the past 12 months, with the shares adding more than 41% in that time. However, the brokerage bunch remains skeptical of GE's sustainability. Despite its technical triumphs, four out of 10 analysts maintain a lukewarm "hold" rating on the equity, and the consensus 12-month price-target of $23.08 represents a slim 6% premium to GE's current perch.
We've mentioned time and again our bullish posture toward the housing sector, and homebuilder PHM justified this stance in today's session. The stock tagged a four-year high of $15.69 this morning, after Williams Financial Group raised its outlook for PHM to "buy" from "hold," and upped its price target to $17 from $13. The equity is trading nearly 6% higher, adding to its eye-catching 132.5% year-to-date gain. It's all gloom and doom among short-term option players, though. The stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 3.87 shows that put open interest nearly quadruples call open interest among options expiring in three months. What's more, this ratio ranks in the 82nd percentile of its annual range, indicating near-term traders have been more put-heavy toward PHM only 18% of the time within the last year.
PNRA is having quite a day, with the shares reaching a record peak of $169.36. The stock was up 5.6% at last check, bringing its 52-week advance to roughly 54%. Helping support this impressive price action is PNRA's 10-month moving average, which has ushered the equity higher since March 2008. This withstanding technical strength may be spooking short sellers. Short interest declined 10.7% during the latest reporting period, but still accounts for a healthy 6.2% of the stock's float. Meanwhile, the equity's 10-day International Securities Exchange (ISE)/Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE)/NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) call/put volume ratio of 1.70 ranks higher than 93% of other such annual readings, indicating calls have been bought to open over puts at a near annual-high clip.
You know who's not having a good day? MANU. The shares fell to a post-IPO low of $12.11 today, and have now given back roughly 14% of their value since the mid-August offering. Needless to say, pessimism is steep surrounding the soccer stock. In the options pits, traders at the ISE, CBOE, and PHLX have bought to open 958 puts for every hundred calls during the past 20 sessions. Elsewhere, short interest currently accounts for a brow-raising 17.9% of MANU's float. This morning, Manchester United announced it will unveil its fourth-quarter and fiscal 2012 earnings results on Tuesday, Sept. 18. Analysts, on average, are calling for a loss of 1 cent per share.