Stocks quoted in this article:
Despite some lingering optimism regarding the ongoing fiscal-cliff negotiations, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI - 13,341.94) is off 9 points, or 0.1%, as Wall Street digests a mixed bag of housing data. Specifically, the Commerce Department said housing starts fell by 3% to a seasonally adjusted rate of 861,000 in November, while building permits increased by 3.6% to 899,000 -- marking their highest level since mid-2008. Elsewhere, the CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX - 16.39) is 0.8 point, or 5.3%, higher.
Here are a few noteworthy stats at midday:
- The equity put/call volume ratio across all 11 options exchanges stands at 0.77, with 3.7 million calls exchanged so far today, compared to 2.9 million puts.
- Among the equities with call-heavy activity is Hartford Financial Services Group Inc (NYSE:HIG - 22.70), which has edged about 0.9% higher today, after scoring some bullish brokerage attention this morning. MKM Partners started coverage of the stock with a "buy" rating and a price target of $28, while S&P Capital IQ upgraded the security to "strong buy" from "buy," and raised its price target to $28 from $25. Currently, calls make up 95.9% of HIG's intraday option volume.
- The put/call volume ratio on the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (NYSEARCA:VXX - 28.61) checks in at 1.07, with puts outnumbering calls.
- The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) shows an advance/decline ratio of 1.44, with the number of upward movers outpacing the decliners.
- Among the NYSE's major advancers is General Motors Company (NYSE:GM - 27.57), which has surged more than 8% -- and tagged a new annual high of $27.91 -- in intraday action amid reports that the company will purchase 200 million of its shares from the U.S. Treasury Department by year's end. The deal values the shares at $27.50 apiece, representing a near 8% premium to yesterday's closing price of $25.49.
- Bullish sentiment rose again last week, according to the latest Investors Intelligence survey. The percentage of financial advisors with a bullish view on stocks climbed to 46.8% from 45.7%, while the percentage bearish also increased to 24.5% from 23.4%. Meanwhile, the percentage of advisors expecting a market correction dropped to 28.7% from 30.9%.