By Carlos Guillen
Equity markets are trading in winning territory so far into today's trading session despite some rather mixed economic data from industrial production and housing.
The main positive economic data out today was industrial production, which rose in September by the most in seven months, signaling U.S. manufacturing improved in the third quarter of the year. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve, industrial production during September increased month-over-month by 0.6 percent, better than the Street's consensus estimate calling for a 0.3 percent month-over-month rise. In the same time range, capacity utilization increased from 77.9 percent to 78.3 percent, landing higher than the Street's consensus estimate of 78.0 percent. While it was feared that the slowing growth in China and the recession in Europe would have a significant negative effect here at home, it appears that the impact is not that severe; however, we still expect some repercussions from the most recent government shutdown.
On the Housing front, the number of Americans who signed contracts to purchase a previously owned home fell sharply in September. Pending home sales for September fell 5.6 percent to the lowest levels seen since December of last year, and it missed expectations of a 0.5 percent increase as prospective buyers held back amid higher interest rates and uncertainty from government leaders. More on this below.
On company items, Biogen (NASDAQ:BIIB) moved higher after the biotechnology company reported better-than-expected third-quarter earnings and revenue, helped by strong sales of its multiple sclerosis treatments, and lifted its full-year outlook. On the other hand, Dow component Merck (NYSE:MCK) dropped after the drug maker reported third-quarter earnings that topped analysts' estimates, but revenue that fell a bit shy as sales of Januvia, a diabetes drug, declined. After the close of trading today, all eyes will be on Apple as it will report earnings results for the September quarter. Apple is projected to post a profit of $7.94 per share, which is down 8.4% from the year-ago period. If Apple misses expectations, we could see lots of volatility in tomorrow's trading session.
Also tomorrow and the day after the Federal Reserve will be in focus as they will be meeting to discuss policy. However, the consensus is that nothing will change from its current path. The Fed is widely expected to keep stimulus measures, including the $85-billion-a-month bond purchasing program, intact.
Pending Home Sales
By David Urani
Pending home sales for September were quite disappointing but the reaction in homebuilders could have been worse. In the end, it's not necessarily something that the market wasn't braced for and I'm not exactly surprised either. Nevertheless, it's a discouraging result.
Pending sales were down 5.6% month to month, and for the first time this year were down year over year as well, by 1.2% to an index reading of 101.6. Sales were down in the high-single digit percentages month to month in all regions except for the South which was down slightly. In all, pending sales hit their lowest level since December.
With that said, sales are now off 8.7% from the May peak and while that's not good it's also something that a lot of market-watchers won't be surprised to see. After all, we've been in an environment of sales volatility for months now in the aftermath of mortgage rate increases and softening of demand is something we've already been seeing. Up to this point pending home sales had only slipped modestly from the highs.