Stocks quoted in this article:

"It was a slow day, and the big selling we've been seeing over the past few sessions slowed," said Schaeffer's Senior Technical Strategist Ryan Detrick, CMT. "Nevertheless, after some volatility during the final hour, the bears once again took charge, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) and S&P 500 Index (SPX) finished lower for a fourth day in a row. This is the third four-day losing streak this year, and the last losing streak was five days back in September. So, if history has taught us anything in 2013, the bulls are more than due to take charge soon." Meanwhile, investors digested the latest onslaught of economic reports, searching for answers as to when the Fed will start to scale back its asset-buying program.

Continue reading for more on today's market, including:

plus...
    The private sector added more jobs than expected, new home sales rebounded from their September lows, and Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) reached a technical milestone despite layoff news.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI - 15,889.77) spent time on both sides of breakeven today, but finished the session 24.9 points, or 0.2%, lower -- marking a second consecutive close below 16,000. Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) led the Dow's 12 advancers with a gain of 1.6%, while Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) paced the 18 laggards with a drop of 0.9%.

The S&P 500 Index (SPX - 1,792.81) experienced similar price action, and shaved off 2.3 points, or 0.1%, by day's end. Conversely, the Nasdaq Composite (COMP - 4,038.00) "outperformed" its peers by adding 0.8 point, or 0.02%, for the session.

Meanwhile, the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX - 14.70) tagged an intraday high of 15.71 around 1:30 p.m. ET, but pared its gains throughout the afternoon to close just 0.2 point, or 1%, higher.

CLOSING SUMMARY  INDICES

CLOSING SUMMARY  NYSE AND NASDAQ

A Trader's Take:

"Europe was down significantly, so it was nice to shake that off somewhat," Detrick continued. "The new home sales figures were very strong. I know, I know -- but what about tapering? Well, I'm all for better economic data and the start of tapering. I have no clue when it will be, but let's get this economy moving and take off the training wheels to see how it does."

3 Things to Know About Today's Market:

  • The private sector added 215,000 jobs last month, according to Automatic Data Processing (NASDAQ:ADP). Economists, on average, were expecting an increase of just 178,000 positions in November. (MarketWatch)
  • The Commerce Department said new home sales climbed 25.4% to a yearly rate of 444,000 in October -- rebounding from the previous month's notable low, and exceeding consensus expectations. (Bloomberg)
  • The Fed's latest Beige Book report indicated that the economic growth rate between early October and mid-November was "modest to moderate." The latest data isn't likely to offer many clues to investors looking for signs of imminent tapering of asset-buying efforts by the central bank. (CNBC)

5 Stocks We Were Watching Today:

  1. Despite a notable 52-week gain, Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C) was slapped with some downbeat analyst attention this morning.
  2. General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) saw a jump in options activity -- including a pair of spread strategies -- following its November sales report.
  3. News of overseas layoffs didn't keep Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) from cruising to a new high -- nor did it hamper the equity's call volume.
  4. Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) attracted a crop of option bears, who focused on the tech concern's February-dated puts.
  5. Call and put players swarmed Deere & Company (NYSE:DE), after the company announced a sizeable expansion of its share buyback program.
EARNINGS

For a look at today's options movers and commodities activity, head to page 2.

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