Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Day of Giving Back

Stocks snapped back into negative territory following more mixed messages on the economy.

At the open, investors were encouraged by data from the S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index, which showed a 1.2% gain in July over the prior month, the best month-over-month showing in 4 years. Though house prices nationally were in a decline of 13.1% year-over-year according to the survey, it was a better number than expected.
"Combined sales of new and existing homes have risen for four out of the last five months, signaling the worst of the housing crisis is over."

Following the housing data, the Conference Board reported that consumer confidence fell to 53.1 in September from 54.5. This report contradicted last week's positive report on consumer confidence issued by the University of Michigan sentiment survey.

Nonetheless, investors were taking profits in front of tomorrow's ADP Employment Survey, which has served as a proxy for the monthly Non-farm payroll data released by the government the first Friday of each month. Stocks finished at or near their lowest levels of the day, which usually indicates a good deal of unease, though these indicators have been less-than-reliable on a day-to-day basis recently.

Dow 9,742.20, -47.16 (0.48%)
NASDAQ 2,124.04, -6.70 (0.31%)
S&P 500 1,060.61, -2.37 (0.22%)
NYSE Composite 6,926.82, -12.94 (0.19%)

Market simple indicators were mixed on the day, with declining issues beating out advancing ones, 3517-2919. New highs improved, to 323, while new lows continued to contract, to 45. Volume was light to moderate, with many market participants taking a wait-and-see attitude in advance of the employment figures which will take center stage Wednesday through Friday.

NYSE Volume 5,592,967,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,094,364,375

Commodity traders took the same laid-back approach on the session. Oil slipped 16 cents, to $66.71; gold gained 30 cents, to finish at $994.40. Silver shed 2 cents to end at $16.18.

There was scant data with which to move the markets on Tuesday, though tomorrow will be another story altogether. Analysts are seeking job losses in the ADP report of about 200,000 for the month of September, and Non-farm payrolls of about the same level, though a figure of -180,000 would certainly be a tonic for the markets.

As mixed as economic data has been over the past two weeks, it's difficult to portend a particular outcome, and the markets surely aren't offering any clues.

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