Stocks quoted in this article:
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI - 13,022.55) is down about 74 points, or 0.6%, marking the blue-chip barometer's fifth straight day in the red. Earlier in the session, the index fell as low as 12,987.40, thanks to lingering skepticism about an eleventh-hour budget deal in Washington, D.C. However, some domestic economic data has helped to ease the blow: pending home sales rose for a third consecutive month, while the Chicago purchasing managers index (PMI) increased by more than expected in December. Elsewhere, the CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX - 20.22) is 0.8 point, or 3.9%, higher, and is on pace to end the week north of 20 for the first time in more than six months.
Here are a few noteworthy stats at midday:
- The equity put/call volume ratio across all 11 options exchanges sits at 0.90, with roughly 2.3 million calls and 2.1 million puts exchanged.
- Among the equities with call-heavy activity is Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE:BKS - 6.50), which has seen roughly 3,900 contracts exchanged so far -- about four times its average midday call volume. The bookseller has bucked the trend lower in early trading, after Pearson PLC (ADR) (NYSE:PSO - 19.33) announced plans to buy a 5% stake in BKS for $89.5 million. The news has overshadowed talk of weaker-than-expected holiday sales and Nook demand in 2013.
- The put/call volume ratio on the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (NYSEARCA:VXX – 34.44) stands at 1.10, with puts outnumbering calls.
- The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) shows an advance/decline ratio of 0.57, with the number of downward movers outpacing the advancers.
- Among the NYSE's major decliners is Limited Brands, Inc. (NYSE:LTD - 45.59), which has surrendered 1.8% amid continued weakness in the retail sector. The firm is set to report December same-store sales on Thursday, Jan. 3.