Stocks quoted in this article:
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI - 13,578.80) is up 68 points, or 0.5%, thanks to a pair of upbeat economic reports. Specifically, the Labor Department said weekly jobless claims decreased by 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 335,000 last week, notching a five-year low. Economists, on average, had predicted a drop to just 370,000. Meanwhile, the Commerce Department revealed that housing starts surged 12.1% in December to a seasonally adjusted yearly rate of 954,000, the highest level since mid-2008. This latest figure bested consensus estimates for a rise of just 3.4%. On a more downbeat note, the Philadelphia Fed reported that its manufacturing index dropped to negative 5.8 in January from a positive reading of 4.6 in the month prior -- disappointing economists, who were projecting a rise to 5.8. Elsewhere, the CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX - 13.23) -- which fell to the 13.16 mark earlier, its lowest reading since June 2007 -- is 0.2 point, or 1.4%, lower.
Here are a few noteworthy stats at midday:
- The equity put/call volume ratio across all 11 options exchanges stands at 0.66, with 4.6 million calls crossing the tape so far today, compared to 3.1 million puts.
- Among the equities with heavy call activity is Tyco International Ltd (NYSE:TYC - 30.84), which has added about 1%, and tagged an 11-year peak of $30.89. Currently, calls account for 99.7% of the security's intraday option volume.
- The put/call volume ratio on the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (NYSEARCA:VXX - 25.37) -- which touched another record low of 25.05 this morning -- checks in at 1.54, with puts outnumbering calls.
- The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) shows an advance/decline ratio of 3.38, with the number of upward movers more than tripling the decliners.
- Among the NYSE's major advancers is CBS Corporation (NYSE:CBS - 41.79), which has jumped over 10% -- and claimed a new multi-year high of $42.55 -- in intraday action. The company revealed on Wednesday plans to sell its European and Asian outdoor businesses, while converting its North and South American unit into a real estate investment trust (REIT). The news also triggered some bullish analyst attention this morning. Wedbush upgraded the stock to "outperform" from "neutral," and lifted its price target to $50 from $36, while Barclays, Lazard, Nomura, UBS, Deutsche Bank, and RBC also issued upward price-target adjustments.
- Optimism waned during the week ended Jan. 16, according to the latest survey by the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII). The percentage of investors with a bullish view on stocks fell to 44.0% from 46.5%, while the percentage bearish rose to 27.3% from 26.9%. Meanwhile, the percentage neutral increased to 28.7% from 26.6%.