RTTNews - Following a moderately strong open, stocks are losing steam in early afternoon trading on Friday, as buying interest has waned since the open. Nonetheless, the major averages have managed to remain in positive territory.

The continued strength in the markets has come amid a lull in economic data, although recent encourage economic reports has generated some optimism and contributed to the earlier strength.

The day's climb has been mitigated by low trading volume characteristic of the summer season. Trader may also be looking ahead to next week, which will offer some key pieces of market moving information.

Traders may be on the sidelines ahead of the results of the Federal Reserve's policy meeting, along with key housing, employment and gross domestic product figures set to be revealed next week.

In recent trading, the Dow has pulled back near the unchanged line, although the blue chip index is currently clinging to a modest gain. The Dow is currently up 5.82 at 8,561.42, the Nasdaq is up 19.40 at 1,827.12 and the S&P 500 is up 3.15 at 921.52.

Sector News

Most of the major sectors continue to show strength in afternoon trading, helping the major averages to hold onto their gains.

Healthcare-related stocks are building on their gains for the fourth consecutive session. Significant strength remains visible among health insurance stocks, with the Morgan Stanley Healthcare Payor Index up 2.7 percent.

One of the best performers in the insurance sector has been Molina Healthcare (MOH), which is up by 6 percent on the session. With the advance, the stock rose to its best intraday price in nearly eight months earlier in the day.

Considerable strength has also emerged among gold and steel stocks, with the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index and the NYSE Arca Steel Index up by 3.2 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively. Gold stocks have benefited from an increase by the price of the precious metal, which is up by $4.90 to $939.50 an ounce.

Railroad, technology and housing stocks are also advancing, reflecting the day's strength in an array of market segments.

On the other hand, natural gas stocks have come under pressure over the course of the trading day, dragging the NYSE Arca Natural Gas Index down 1.7 percent. The weakness in the sector comes amid a decrease by the price of natural gas.

Stock In The News

Shares of CarMax (KMX) are showing significant upside in afternoon trading after the company reported first-quarter net income of $0.13 per share, flat compared to the prior-year quarter. The results beat analyst estimates, which called for earnings of $0.04 per share. The stock is up by 13.8 percent after reaching its best intraday price in nearly nine months.

Sealy (ZZ) is also on the rise after the firm said it expects net sales in the range of $294 million - $301 million for the quarter. On average, analysts expect the company to report revenues of $296.79 million. Shares of the bedding manufacturer have risen by 20.6 percent after ending Thursday's trading down by 8.2 percent.

On the other hand, E-Trade Financial (ETFC) is slipping after the company revealed the pricing of its registered public offering of 435 million shares of common stock at $1.10 per share. The stock has fallen by 12.6 percent, driven by concern over share dilution. The day's retreat has dragged the stock down to its worst intraday level in over two months.

In Focus: Research In Motion, Apple, Stanford Arrested

In earnings news, Research in Motion Limited (RIMM) reported adjusted first quarter earnings of $564.4 million or $0.98 per share, beating analyst estimates of $0.94 per share. The BlackBerry maker also reported a 53 percent increase in sales.

Looking ahead, RIM said expects second quarter earnings of $0.94 to $1.03 per share on revenues of $3.45 to $3.7 billion. The consensus estimates call for earnings of $0.97 per share on revenues of $3.61 billion.

Also on the tech front, Apple's (AAPL) iPhone 3GS is being launched today. The anticipated success of the new product line and the return of Steve Jobs as CEO, set to take place later this month, may further bolster investor confidence.

In other news, Texas billionaire Sir Allen Stanford, who has been accused of perpetrating an alleged fraud worth $8 billion, was arrested by FBI agents in Virginia late on Thursday.

U.S. authorities had issued an arrest warrant for Stanford over allegations of massive fraud involving certificates of deposits issued by his Antigua-based bank, reports quoting his lawyer said.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia Pacific region ended Friday's session showing solid gains. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed up 0.9 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index finished up 0.8 percent.

The major European markets also finished the day higher. The French CAC 40 Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index closed up 0.9 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively, while the German DAX Index closed just above the unchanged mark.

In the bond markets, treasuries have shown a notable move to the upside after showing a lack of direction earlier. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note is currently trading at 3.801 percent, a drop of 3.3 basis points on the day.

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