Stocks Close Modestly Lower in Thin Pre-Holiday Trading

Dow Edges Lower While VIX Finishes Unchanged

by 12/24/2012 1:26:04 PM
Stocks quoted in this article:

"There is virtually zero volume, nothing is happening, and everyone is on vacation," sighed Schaeffer's Senior Equity Analyst Bryan Sapp. In thin trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average moved modestly lower, while the few investors still active expressed a hesitancy to buy ahead of the fiscal-cliff deadline one week from today. "There was also no big news over the weekend to make anything move," Sapp concluded.

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

plus...
  • The latest in Italian politics, high hopes among short-term Google bulls, and our Tweet of the day, which is likely a popular mantra among insomniac traders.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) was sluggish throughout the day, spending the entire session wallowing below breakeven. By the closing bell, the blue-chip index showed a loss of 52 points, or 0.4%, and remained below its 10-day moving average. Four of the 30 Dow names enjoyed some positive momentum, however, with Alcoa (NYSE:AA) leading the bullish quartet with a gain of 0.6%. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) was at the back of the pack, down 2.3% on the day, and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) ended flat.

The S&P 500 Index (SPX) drifted lower as well, giving back 3.5 points, or 0.2%, making a close solidly south of its respective 10-day moving average. The Nasdaq Composite lost 8.4 points, or 0.3%.

The CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX), meanwhile, ended the day flat despite an intraday push higher.

CLOSING SUMMARY – INDICES

CLOSING SUMMARY – NYSE AND NASDAQ

3 Things to Know About Today's Market:

  • Politicians engaged in more of the blame game over the weekend via various media outlets, as policymakers headed off for the brief Christmas recess without a resolution to the $600 billion fiscal-cliff question. Senator Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., appeared on CNN's "State of the Union" and called the potential drop off said cliff "the most colossal consequential act of congressional irresponsibility in a long time, maybe ever in American history." Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyo., told Fox News, "I think the president is eager to go over the cliff for political purposes." The two central figures in the budget debate -- President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio -- kept quiet over the weekend.
  • Newly withdrawn Italian prime minister Mario Monti said he might consider a second term at the helm in the future, were he backed by fellow supporters of austerity measures (such as tax increases). Two days after his resignation, however, Monti remains understandably cynical, noting the decision to stay in politics at the current juncture would have assumed "a high probability of failure."
  • Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) dragged down the Dow following reports of disappointing sales for the new Windows 8 operating system. The news is also a likely letdown for PC manufacturers, which continue to face sluggish demand despite the introduction of a fresh (and largely well-reviewed) iteration of Windows.

Plus ... Robert Downey Jr. has come a long way from his troubled times. In fact -- according to Forbes -- he has cruised all the way to the top of the box-office-receipts game. Also near the top of this year's list for top-grossing performers were the trio of stars from the Twilight saga, Christian Bale, and Daniel Craig.

Today's Top Tweet:

"I'm not wrong, the market is."
@ReformedBroker, 7:11 a.m.

5 Stocks We Were Watching Today:

  1. Bullish weekly option traders gambled on Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), projecting a pop higher by the end of the week.
  2. A far out-of-the-money call option saw unusual attention in Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK).
  3. Longer-term put speculators pounced on VMware (NYSE:VMW).
  4. J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) attracted call buyers as it moved higher following a positive analyst note.
  5. AT&T (NYSE:T) traders called for downside this week and snatched up weekly put options.

Question of the Day:

Q: What is the 'Santa-Claus Rally'?
A: This is a colloquial term related to the seasonal performance of stocks between Christmas and New Year's Day. Historically speaking (over the last 100 years), the Dow has been positive 68% of the time during Christmas week, with an average return of 0.67%. There are several theories behind this phenomenon, some of which include investors making portfolio changes ahead of the year-end tax deadline, or using Christmas bonus money to bolster their holdings.

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

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