Stocks quoted in this article:
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) is modestly higher this afternoon, thanks to a continued rebound in blue-chip health care concerns Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) and Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE). Adding to the bullish bias is an upbeat reading on durable goods orders, which rose by a better-than-expected 2.2% in February. Stripping out the volatile transportation sector, however, the metric increased by a slimmer 0.2%. Against this backdrop, the DJI has tacked on 27.70 points, or 0.2%, to trade at 16,395.58.
Here are a few noteworthy stats at midday:
- The equity put/call volume ratio across all 12 options exchanges stands at 0.79. Roughly 3.45 million calls, compared to about 2.75 million puts, have crossed the tape so far.
Among the names seeing call-heavy activity today is Yongye International, Inc (NASDAQ:YONG), which is up 13.3% to $6.80 on no apparent news. Earlier, the China-based agricultural concern hit the $6.86 mark -- its loftiest perch in three years. At last check, almost 96% of the day's intraday options volume had occurred on the call side.
The Nasdaq shows an advance/decline ratio of 0.63, with decliners having the edge over advancing stocks.
One of the biggest decliners on the Nasdaq today is Francesca's Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:FRAN), which has shed 14.1% to churn near $17.91 -- erasing its year-to-date gain in the process. The retailer this morning reported dreary fourth-quarter results and offered up a soft outlook for the current quarter. Additionally, Canaccord Genuity reduced its price target on the stock to C$29 to C$30 in the wake of the report.
- The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) is down 0.18 point, or 1.3%, at 13.84, with the market's "fear gauge" on track to close south of the 14 mark for the first time since March 5.
The iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (NYSEARCA:VXX) has shed 0.7% today to linger near $43.53. Meanwhile, the ETN's put/call volume ratio stands at 1.61, with put volume easily outpacing call volume.
View a real-time chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI).