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Midday Market Stats: Dow Jones Industrial Average Struggles for Direction Ahead of Crimea Vote

Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance, Inc. attracts post-earnings call traders, while Alaska Air Group, Inc. basks in bullish analyst attention

by 3/14/2014 12:07 PM
Stocks quoted in this article:

After suffering its worst session since Feb. 3 yesterday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) is struggling to pick a direction. The blue-chip index was down as much as 49 points in intraday action, but was last seen 16.5 points, or 0.1%, higher at 16,125.42. Speculators are exercising caution ahead of a key annexation vote in Crimea on Sunday, and the latest batch of domestic data has provided little inspiration for sidelined bulls. Specifically, while producer prices unexpectedly fell in February, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index dropped by more than expected this month, tagging a four-month nadir.

Here are a few noteworthy stats at midday:

  1. The equity put/call volume ratio across all 12 options exchanges is currently perched at 0.93, with calls outpacing puts. So far today, 4.55 million calls have changed hands, compared to 4.25 million puts.

  2. One name seeing heavy call trading today is makeup mogul Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance, Inc. (NASDAQ:ULTA), which is 7.1% higher at $95.90, despite some post-earnings price-target cuts. So far, nearly 77% of today's option volume has traded on the call side.

  3. The advance/decline ratio on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) stands at 1.13, with advancing stocks outnumbering the declining issues.

  4. One of the biggest upward movers on the Big Board today is Alaska Air Group, Inc. (NYSE:ALK), which has added 4.1% to $90.98, after Cowen upped its price target by $5 to $100, and reiterated its "outperform" endorsement.

  5. The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) is trading near its intraday high, up 1 point, or 6.4%, at 17.25. The "fear barometer" is on pace for its loftiest weekly finish since late January.

  6. Today's put/call volume ratio on the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (NYSEARCA:VXX) stands at 0.60, with call volume outpacing put volume so far. The ETN has gained 3.7% at midday to $47.81.

View a real-time chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average 2 Minute (INDEXDJX:.DJI).

Unusual Option Volume at Midday

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