RTTNews - After seeing some choppy movement at the open, stocks have continued to show a lack of direction over the course of morning trading on Tuesday. The major averages have been unable to sustain any significant moves, as traders react to the day's flood of economic and earnings news.
On the economic front, a report released by the Commerce Department revealed that retail sales increased by a little more than expected in the month of June, although the sales growth was due in large part to higher gasoline prices.
The report showed that retail sales rose 0.6 percent in June following an unrevised 0.5 percent increase in May. Economists had been expecting retail sales to increase by a somewhat more modest 0.4 percent.
However, after excluding increases in gas station and motor vehicle and parts sales, retail sales actually fell 0.2 percent for the month.
In a separate report, the U.S. Labor Department revealed that producer prices, a key measure of wholesale inflation, rose 1.8 percent in June. This followed a 0.2 percent increase in the previous month. Core producer prices, which exclude food and energy prices, climbed 0.5 percent.
Aside from the economic figures, traders are also digesting a slew of earnings. Goldman Sachs Group (GS) reported second-quarter earnings of $2.72 billion or $4.93 per share, compared to $2.05 billion or $4.58 per share in the same quarter of last year.
Excluding the impact of the TARP, earnings were $3.14 billion or $5.71 per common share for the second quarter of 2009. Wall Street expected the company to report earnings of $3.54 per share for the quarter.
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) reported adjusted second quarter earnings of $4.26 billion, down from $4.42 billion in the year ago quarter. On a per share basis, earnings were $1.15, compared to $1.18 per share in the same period last year. Analysts forecast the firm to earn $1.11 per share.
The major averages have moved to the downside in recent trading, hitting new lows for the session. The Dow is currently down 32.96 at 8,298.72, the Nasdaq is down 6.77 at 1,786.44 and the S&P 500 is down 3.11 at 897.94.
Despite the choppy trading, notable weakness has emerged among health insurance stocks, with the Morgan Stanley Healthcare Payor Index sliding by 2.1 percent on the day. Nonetheless, the index remains stuck in a three week-trading range.
Commercial real estate, computer hardware and banking stocks are also retreating, partly offsetting the strong gains posted in the previous session. The Kbw Bank Index is down by 1.4 percent, despite the better than expected earnings from Goldman Sachs.
On the other hand, resource stocks are turning in some of the day's strongest performances, benefiting from an increase in commodities prices. Oil is currently up $1.35 to $61.04 per barrel, bouncing off of an eight week closing low set in the previous session, while gold is rising by $4.10 to $926.60 per ounce.
Strength is also visible among railroad stocks, with the Dow Jones Railroads Index jumping by 2.6 percent on the day. CSX Corp. (CSX) is helping to lead the sector higher, with the railroad operator currently up 4.8 percent.
CSX released its second quarter results after the close of trading on Monday, reporting earnings of $0.78 per share compared to $0.93 per share last year. Excluding the impact of discontinued operations, the company earned $0.72 per share, beating Wall Street expectations of $0.62 per share.
Stocks Driven By Analyst Comments
Shares of Owens Corning (OC) are advancing in mid-morning trading after being upgraded at JP Morgan from Neutral to Overweight. The stock is up by 4.6 percent, rising to its best intraday price in over a month.
Coventry Healthcare (CVH) is also on the rise following an upgrade from JP Morgan, which raised its rating on the stock from Underweight to Neutral. Shares of the diversified healthcare firm are up by 1.8 percent, rising to their best intraday level in nearly three weeks.
Meanwhile, Vodafone (VOD) is pulling back after being downgraded by UBS from Buy to Neutral. The stock is down by 2.2 percent on the day, offsetting the bulk of its recent gains.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region ended Tuesday's session notably higher, with Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index climbing by 2.3 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively.
The major European markets are also moving to the upside, with the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index rising by 1 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is also moving higher, climbing by 0.7 percent.
In the bond markets, treasuries have moved off of their worst levels of the day but remain in negative territory. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note is trading at 3.415 percent, a gain of 6.9 basis points on the day.
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