stock market news
The stock market today (Wednesday) opened modestly higher before staging a strong rally by mid-day.
Shortly after noon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had jumped 133 points, or .96%, to 14,033, putting it within reach of its all-time high of 14,164, set in 2007. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index added 15.71, or 1.05%, to 1,512; and the tech-heavy Nasdaq climbed 35.18, or 1.09%, to 3,163.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke remains in the spotlight today. The Fed chief continues to defend the central bank's easy-money policies in his second day of testimony before Congress.
Also garnering attention was the Commerce Department's report that showed a 5.2% drop in orders for durable goods - products designed to last at least three years. The decline, steeper than the 3.5% decline economists had expected, came after strong gains in the previous month.
The slump shows the impact from reduced spending, ahead of sequestration, that has already taken hold.
With defense contractors feeling the effects of impending automatic spending cuts, defense capital goods orders plunged 69.5% in January, marking the steepest drop in more than a decade.
Also falling was demand for civilian aircraft, which plummeted 34%. The steep drop in this volatile category was attributed to a decline in orders at The Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) due to battery problems in its Dreamliner 787.
The stock market today got a boost from the National Association of Realtors monthly index report of pending sales of existing U.S. homes - up 4.5% in January from the previous month, handily beating the 1.5% analysts had projected.
And providing a cushion, if not a catalyst, to markets, was an announcement from Fitch Ratings. The firm said that while sequester and a U.S. government shutdown would "erode confidence," it wouldn't prompt a downgrade of the nation's AAA credit rating.
Does the Heinz Deal Mean Warren Buffett Has Become a Doomsday Prepper?
At first sight, Warren Buffett's deal with the Brazilian-led private equity firm 3G Capital to purchase H.J. Heinz Company (NYSE:HNZ) looks strange.
At $28 billion the famed ketchup maker is valued at a rich 23 times earnings, and Buffett won't even control the management, which is to be left to 3G. Given Warren's long and storied history, something doesn't make sense.
But maybe he's become a doomsday prepper.
In the age of Ben Bernanke, canned baked beans and the like seem to make as the ideal investment. Or maybe Buffett feels that the dollar is about to be wiped out by hyperinflation.
Of course, in those circumstances, you would normally buy gold, but maybe Buffett believes that the crash will be so severe that the economy as a whole will break down.
In that case, you'd want guns and ammunition. Buffett's holding company Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A and BRK-B) does not own a gun manufacturer, but a subsidiary manufactures shoes under license from Browning Arms Company, so no doubt a deal could be done.
However, an even more strategic asset in such an event would be imperishable canned food, and you can certainly imagine a gigantic stockpile of Heinz 57 varieties being accumulated in warehouses around Omaha, maybe accompanied by a lake of ketchup, allowing Buffett to corner the market in baked beans and condiments.
Stock Market Today: Finally Some Gains After Two-Day Slump
After two days of losses, the stock market today (Friday) reversed the slide and opened higher, thanks to better-than-expected earnings from Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) and American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG)
Shortly before 1 p.m. on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 114 points to 13,994.62, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index added 10.6 to 1,513.02 and the Nasdaq advanced 25 to 3,156.34.
While all three indexes are on track for their worst week of the year, the Dow is still up some 6% since the start of 2013, the S&P 500 has gained 5% and the Nasdaq has tacked on almost 4% despite giving back all of February's gains during the two-day selloff.
As Volatility Hits New Lows, It Could Be Time to Sell
The average daily price volatility of stocks has fallen more than 60% since the beginning of 2013. It's the biggest straight-line drop in some 82 years.
A lot of investors are rejoicing. After all, stocks have risen an average of 17% a year when volatility is as low as it is right now, Bloomberg reports.
There is, however, a dark side to low volatility. Namely, it tends to precede powerful reversals that can wipe out investors, as was the case in 2000 and early 2008, and at other key turning points over the past 100 years.
Today, I'm going to talk a bit about what low volatility means for you in terms of upside, and also show you how to protect yourself in a downslide.
Let's start with the concept of average daily volatility itself.
Will the Year of the Snake Bring Another Stock Market Crash?
The Chinese New Year officially began Feb. 10, bringing us the year of the snake - which some investors consider a very bad omen.
Not only does the year of the snake have the worst stock market returns of all zodiac signs, but some of the darkest moments in U.S. history have come during that zodiac year.
Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS AG (NYSE: UBS), appeared on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" Monday and even listed the year of the snake as one reason investors should be cautious about stocks.
And there's plenty of history to back up Cashin's statement.
As Insiders Head For the Exits, Do They Know Something "We" Don't Know?
Whenever the markets begin to look toppy like they do now, I turn to short-term indicators to help me figure out "what's next" for the markets. It complements the fundamental analysis I rely on for the big picture.
Some people - lots of people, in fact - will tell you that this is a wasted exercise. Predicting the markets, they say, can't be done. I disagree if for no other reason that if that were true, guys like Jim Rogers, Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and Carlos Slim wouldn't be the legends they are today.
As I see it, learning to "read" the markets and anticipate its twists and turns is absolutely possible.
But let me qualify my statement. My goal is not necessarily to be "right."
Any savvy trader will tell you the objective is to get enough of a read - right or wrong -so that you can use the appropriate tactics needed to be profitable.
For example, the markets have one heckuva run and flirted with new highs in recent trading. To the casual investor, it appears that things are good because the economy is gradually recovering.
Stock Market Today: Why a Pullback Isn't the Real End of a Rally
The stock market today (Monday) took a breather after a robust rally last week that left the Dow Jones Industrial Average just 155 points from its all-time high of 14,165.
In early afternoon trading Monday, the Dow gave back 125 points, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index shed 14, and the Nasdaq lost 38.
The pullback came on the heels of strong gains in January in which the Dow added 5.9%, marking the index's best performance for the first month of a year since 1994.
Most analysts remain bullish and aren't worried by Monday's declines, saying stocks were due for a temporary retraction and some profit-taking was in order.
"We should get a pullback. Markets have been on a tear and they have been on a tear for good, sound economic and earnings-driven reasons," Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Capital in Jersey City, NJ told Reuters.
Stock Market Today: Will the Dow Keep Going Above 14,000?
The stock market today (Friday) hit a high not seen in more than five years when the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed 14,000 for the first time since October 2007.
Less than an hour into trading the Dow spiked 140 points, or 1%, to hit 14,000.97. In mid-afternoon trading, the Dow rallied further, tacking on 150 points. The move leaves the Dow around 200 points, or 2%, from its all-time high of 14,198.10.
Friday's strong showing came on the heels of the Dow's strongest January (up 5.8%) since 1994.
The Standard & Poor's 500 Index, which logged its best January since 1997, added 15 points, or just shy of 1%. The Nasdaq advanced 40.
The robust rally followed a lackluster report on the job market which gave "strength to the argument that the Fed will continue its bond buying program and keep rates low, which is also a positive for the stock market," Tom Schrader, managing director at Stifel Nicolaus told CNN Money.
That sentiment also gave bonds and precious metals a boost. Gold prices moved up $7 to $1,670. Silver added 37 cents to $31.94
A bevy of reports helped buoy markets Friday.
A Census Bureau report showed construction rose 0.9% in December, well above forecasts. The Institute for Supply Management's monthly manufacturing index rose to 53.1 in January, ahead of the expected 50.5 read, and the University of Michigan's sentiment index climbed to 73.8 last month, better than the expected 71.4.
Is the Obama Stock Market Rally the Real Deal?
At first glance, there can be no doubt that U.S. President Barack Obama has been good for the stock market.
The Standard & Poor's 500 Index has rallied by nearly 700 points - just shy of 86% - since the president's first Inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009.
This is the best stock market performance for a presidential first term since World War II, even beating the 79.2% rally during President Bill Clinton's first term in the White House, from January 1993 to January 1997.
In fact, the only time stocks rallied more during a presidential first term was during Franklin Roosevelt's first term from March 4, 1933, to Jan. 20, 1937, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 245% off of Depression-era lows.
In a very broad sense, the condition of the stock market at the start of President Obama's first term in 2009 can be compared to the stock market in 1933. In both cases, stock prices had collapsed and were trading at generational lows when both presidents took office. In both cases, share prices rallied substantially off of the bottom as economic conditions improved.
But all this really proves is that the first leg of any rally is usually the strongest and most profitable.
As the S&P 500 is at a five-year high and is zeroing in on the 1,500 level for the third time in its history, one has to wonder if the Obama Rally is sustainable or are we just reverting to the mean?
Stock Market Today Battles the Apple Effect
The stock market today was proof that one bad apple doesn't spoil the whole bunch.
The Dow was up 55 points by 3:15, the S&P 500 up 1 - but the Nasdaq did slump 20 points, dragged down by Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL).
Thursday's advance came on the heels of the Dow's 67-point rise Wednesday which was stoked by a vote in the House of Representatives to suspend the U.S. debt ceiling through May 19.
Also propelling gains Wednesday were strong results from tech heavyweights Google INc. (Nasdaq: GOOG), which beat estimates and spiked $38.63 points higher, and International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM), which rallied 4.4% after posting better-than-expected numbers.
To date, some 75% of the 134 companies in the S&P 500 Index that have reported results have handily beat expectations.
"People are just trying to digest all the earnings reports from the various companies. As long as the economy seems to get better the stock market will do well," Giri Cherukuri, portfolio manager who helps manage $3 billion at Oakbrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois, told Bloomberg.