Stocks spent most of the session in the red, thanks to lackluster retail sales data and lingering concerns about falling off the fiscal cliff. "Volume was very light today, but the selling is surely the result of continued fiscal-cliff fears," said Senior Trading Analyst Bryan Sapp. "There are rumblings of a compromise deal getting pushed through, but most traders seem to think that it won't accomplish anything." However, solid housing stats kept the bears in check, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) trimming its deficit by the close.
Continue reading for more on today's market, including:
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) explored a range of 98 points, jumping as high as 13,174.88 in early trading, and touching an intraday nadir of 13,076.87 around midday. By the time the dust settled, the blue-chip barometer pared its deficit to 24.5 points, or 0.2% -- extending its losing streak to three sessions, and marking the first finish south of its 20-day moving average since Nov. 27. UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) led the 17 declining blue chips, swallowing a loss of 1.2%, while Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) paced the 13 advancers with a 2.6% gain.
The S&P 500 Index (SPX) also surrendered an early lead, giving up 6.8 points, or 0.5%, to end beneath its own 20-day trendline for the first time since Nov. 21. Turning to tech, the Nasdaq Composite (COMP) fared the worst of its peers, falling 22.4 points, or 0.7%, to breach its 20-day trendline for just the second time in five weeks.
The CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX), on the other hand, ended decisively higher. By the close, the market's "fear barometer" added 4.8% to finish at its loftiest perch since late July.
A Trader's Take:
"Stocks with heavy exposure to China and Japan are holding up very well," noted Sapp. "This includes steel, coal, rare earths, and tech names like Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU), Youku Tudou (NYSE:YOKU), and Sohu.com (NASDAQ:SOHU). At this point, fears of the China bubble seem overblown, and should its economy stabilize, it could help lead us into a period of growth."
3 Things to Know About Today's Market:
Plus ... With less than a week to go before we fall off the so-called "cliff," Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX) had a message for Congress. CEO Howard Schultz asked baristas in over 100 D.C. and Virginia stores to write "Come Together" on all coffee cups on Thursday and Friday. "Rather than be bystanders, you and your customers have an opportunity -- and I believe we all have a responsibility -- to send our elected officials a respectful but potent message, urging them to come together to find common ground," Schultz wrote to employees this morning.
Today's Top Tweet:
"Holiday trade continues ... just saw a tumbleweed roll through Fifth Ave."
@tarhinitrade, 10:16 a.m.
5 Stocks We Were Watching Today:
Question of the Day:
Q: What is an American-style option?
A: American-style options can be exercised at any time before expiration day, from the moment the option is purchased or sold. All standard exchange-listed equity options are American style, while many indexes are European style, meaning they can only be exercised at a predetermined time (generally at expiration).
For a look at today's options movers and commodities activity, head to page 2.
The Case for Big Moves in IWM and QQQ
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