Thursday's session really reflected the uncertainty that will not seem to disappear in the market.
The major indexes sold off in the beginning of the day, but buyers brought the market back to close above the lows. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 3.33 points (-0.02%), Standard & Poor's 500 index ended down 1.48 points (-0.10%), and the Nasdaq dropped 23.90 points (-0.86%). Volume on the NYSE was average for the news filled week at 1.6 billion shares, and decliners topped advancers by a ratio of about 17:16.
The markets digested the some important economic news Thursday morning, ahead of next week's Fed meeting. The news that got the most attention came from the housing sector, where new-home sales actually increased last month compared to August. The Census Bureau reported new-home sales jumped to a rate of 770,000 annualized units. The news briefly slowed down the downtrend in the morning, but the reality that the number was in-line with estimates and the increase was mainly because August was so poor set in quick and sellers again took control. Before the bell, durable good orders disappointed, declining 1.7%, well below estimates of an increase of 1.5%. Jobless claims declined less than expected as well (full story). The Fed has repeated that timely economic data will influence its decision, and though new-home sales was somewhat positive, the data today should do little to deter the Fed from lowering rates as expected next week. The 10-Year Treasury dropped 8/32 in price to yield 4.37%.
Sectors were mixed Thursday with the utility sector (+2.0%) and energies (+0.4%) leading the way. The financial (-0.6%), consumer discretionary (-0.9%),and technology (-0.3%) sectors all underperformed. There were a couple notable earnings reports, despite nothing really forcing the market in one direction. Motorola (+4.0%) announced a drop in profits, but issued strong guidance for the fourth quarter (full story). Dow Chemical (-0.7%) missed estimates. Comcast (-10.8%) plunged after reporting a 54% decrease in profits (full story). Briston Myers (+3.3%) climbed after a strong beat (full story). Akamia (+12.6%) bucked the downward tech trend after the company reported a 73% increase in earnings. Following the close today Microsoft (+2.4% in regular hours) blew away earnings and offered strong guidance for the future (full story). Share of the company surged up 10.4% to $32.01 in after hours trading.
Commodities in general had a strong day. Crude jumped $3.36 to $90.46/barrel. Gold added $5.40 to finish at $771/ounce, and silver increased $0.31 to $13.90/ounce.
Tomorrow look for consumer sentiment (10:00 AM) to be released. The markets, should enjoy a nice bounce off the Microsoft report, but there probably will not be too many people ready to place more bets on the market before next week's Fed meeting.
Commentary: Gold Bull and Bear Markets Since 1972 • How Can Microsoft Stay Competitive?
Stocks to watch: MOT, DOW, CMCSA, MSFT, BMY, AKAM