Stocks started the day in the red, as traders were confronted with downbeat earnings from Dow component Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) -- along with a new recession warning from the European Commission, which took a hatchet to its 2012 economic outlook for the euro zone. However, a well-received round of economic reports helped the major market indexes find their footing by lunchtime. The Labor Department announced that initial jobless claims held steady, defying economists' expectations for a weekly rise, while the FHFA home price index pointed to further stabilization in the beaten-down housing market. However, the rebound was relatively modest, as traders kept a wary eye trained on crude oil's rapid rise. Thanks to a softer dollar, the April-dated contract continued its breakout rally today, eventually closing at its highest point since last May.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA – 12,984.69) wrapped up the day on a gain of 46 points, or 0.4%, as 20 of its 30 components closed higher. Procter & Gamble (PG) surged 3.1% to lead the advancing blue chips, while HPQ paced the 10 laggards with a post-earnings loss of 6.5%. The Dow peaked today at 12,996.08, just shy of the much-hyped 13,000 level.
The S&P 500 Index (SPX – 1,363.46) added 5.8 points, or 0.4%, after finding support near the 1,350 neighborhood. Finally, the Nasdaq Composite (COMP – 2,956.98) climbed 23.8 points, or 0.8%, to notch the day's biggest percentage gain.
Turning to equities in focus, Sears Holdings (SHLD) soared after unveiling plans to boost its liquidity ... DryShips (DRYS) rallied as the firm sailed past quarterly revenue expectations ... Vivus (VVUS) spiked higher when an FDA panel overwhelmingly voted in favor of its Qnexa obesity drug ... Trina Solar (TSL) turned south after swallowing a steeper-than-forecast quarterly loss ... High-flying Starbucks (SBUX) was singled out for a bullishly slanted credit spread ... and today's Quote of the Day comes from Bill Maher, who took to his website to promote his upcoming special -- which will be streamed live, at no charge, on Yahoo's (YHOO) new online comedy channel. As Maher explained it:
"It's free. Because let's face it, you'd just figure out a way to download it illegally."
But these weren't the only headlines hitting the Street today. Click on the links below for our blog coverage of:
And, in case you missed it, Jim Cunningham explained how to construct a strap spread in the latest installment of Inside Options. Click here to watch the video.
For today's activity in crude oil, gold futures, options, and more, turn to page 2.
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