Thursday, March 18, 2010

Strange, Uneven Day on Wall Street

With much of the nation's attention diverted from Wall Street toward the opening round of the NCAA Tournament or Washington's desperate dance to pass health care legislation, major stock indices made some odd directional moves.

The Dow vastly outperformed the other indices, with the NYSE Composite, the broadest measure, taking the largest loss of the day. Traders were busy closing positions on options trades, with quadruple-witching expiration tomorrow. Most adroit traders have already shut down for the week, with not much wiggle room remaining on options strike dates.

Dow 10,779.17,+45.50 (0.42%)
NASDAQ 2,391.28, +2.19 (0.09%)
S&P 500 1,165.82, -0.39 (0.03%)
NYSE Composite 7,443.57, -30.56 (0.41%)

Internals revealed the true nature of the market, which was hurriedly exiting positions. Losers led gainers, 3774-2685. There were 602 new highs and 42 new lows. Volume backed off from better activity earlier in the week.

NYSE Volume 4,785,140,500
NASDAQ Volume 2,091,388,625

Oil backed off a bit, losing 73 cents, to $82.20. Gold gained $3.40, to $1,127.40. Silver slipped 10 cents to $17.41.

The CPI, released prior to the market open, may have encouraged some selling as fears of deflation persist. The index was flat for the month of February, with many of the components showing losses. Initial unemployment claims came in at 457K, another cause for concern.

There are no economic released slated for Friday, and expectations are for a dull session, though traders should be alert to any abrupt move to the downside, which could turn into an avalanche under the proper conditions. There is little to trade on over the next 3-5 weeks, as 1st quarter earnings season approaches.

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