Stocks Showing A Lack Of Direction Amid Slew Of News - U.S. Commentary

 @ibtimes
on April 15 2009 12:36 PM

After seeing considerable weakness earlier in the session, stocks have shown a lack of direction over the course of the trading day on Wednesday. The choppy trading comes as traders digest a slew of economic data as well as earnings news from some big name companies.

On the economic front, the Labor Department said its consumer price index fell 0.1 percent in March following a 0.4 percent increase the month before. The decline came as a surprise to economists, who had expected prices to edge up 0.1 percent.

Excluding food and energy prices, the core consumer price index rose 0.2 percent for the third consecutive month. Economists had been expecting a 0.1 percent increase in core prices.

At the same time, the New York Fed released its regional manufacturing report for April, with the index of activity in the sector coming in at negative 14.7 compared to the previous reading of negative 38.2. Analysts were looking for a reading of negative 35.0.

Later, the Fed's industrial production report showed that production fell 1.5 percent in March, while capacity utilization dropped to 69.3 percent. Economists expected industrial production to decline 0.9 percent in March, while capacity utilization was expected to come in at 69.6 percent.

In other economic news, mortgage application volume fell 11 percent last week, as refinance activity slid nearly 11 percent. Additionally, the Fed is due to release its Beige Book report at 2 pm ET. The report is a compilation of anecdotal evidence on economic conditions from each of the 12 Fed districts.

In corporate news, Intel (INTC) reported first quarter earnings of $0.11 per share on revenues of $7.1 billion. While the results were down year-over-year, they exceeded analyst estimates of earnings of $0.03 per share on revenues of $6.98 billion.

However, Intel disappointed investors by saying that was not providing a revenue outlook for the second quarter at this time due to economic uncertainty and limited visibility. Subsequently, shares of the semiconductor giant are down 3.8 percent on the day.

Meanwhile, UBS (UBS) forecast a first quarter loss attributable to shareholders of almost 2 billion Swiss francs. UBS also said expects to reduce the number of its employees to about 67,500 in 2010 in order to cut costs.

In recent trading, the Dow has risen to a new high for the session, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq remains stuck in the red. The Dow is currently up 48.11 at 7,968.29 and the S&P 500 is up 1.80 at 843.30, while the Nasdaq is down 16.33 at 1,609.39.

Sector News

Following the lead of Intel, semiconductor stocks are turning in some of the market's worst performances in early afternoon trading. The Philadelphia Semiconductor Index is currently down 2.4 percent, pulling back further off the nearly six-month closing high it set last Thursday.

Within the semiconductor sector, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Applied Materials (AMAT) are posting notable losses, falling 5.5 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively.

Some brokerage stocks are also posting notable losses, dragging the Amex Securities Broker/Dealer Index down 1.4 percent. Raymond James (RJF) is down 19.8 percent after saying its fiscal second quarter earnings will be well below the current consensus analysts' estimate.

Weakness also remains visible in the software, retail, and internet sectors. The Amex Software Index is currently down 1.7 percent, while the S&P Retail Index and the Amex Internet Index are suffering losses of 1.4 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.

At the other end of the spectrum, housing stocks have moved sharply higher over the course of the trading day, driving the Philadelphia Housing Index up 5.1 percent. Standard Pacific (SPF) is helping to lead the sector higher, with the homebuilder currently up 25 percent.

Additionally, airline stocks have shown a notable turnaround over the course of the trading day, with the Amex Airline Index currently up 2.8 percent after falling as much as 4.2 percent earlier in the session.

Railroad, real estate, and tobacco stocks are also posting strong gains, with the Dow Jones Railroad Index currently up 2.8 percent, while the Morgan Stanley REIT Index and the Amex Tobacco Index are posting gains of 2.3 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively.

Stocks In The News

Among individual stocks, Burger King (BKC) is suffering a loss of 14 percent on the day after announcing preliminary third quarter revenue results that missed expectations. With the decline, the stock has plunged to its lowest level in over four months.

While the fast food giant said that preliminary revenues for the quarter were $600 million, up from the $594 million actual revenue reported last year, analysts had a consensus revenue estimate of $625.8 million.

Additionally, Peabody Energy Corp. (BTU) is down 12.9 percent on the day after the company reported first quarter earnings of $0.63 per share on $1.46 billion in revenues. Analysts had expected the company to earn $0.93 per share on revenues of $1.62 billion for the quarter.

Meanwhile, CSX Corp. (CSX) is up 7.8 percent on the day after its first quarter earnings came in better than anticipated.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance on Wednesday. While the markets in Hong Kong and China closed higher, notable weakness was visible in Japan and South Korea.

Meanwhile, the major European markets are all seeing weakness, with the French CAC 40 Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 both down 0.5 percent, while the German DAX Index is posting a 0.2 percent loss.

In the bond market, treasuries have shown a notable move to the downside in recent trading after seeing modest strength earlier in the session. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark 10-year note is currently up 3.7 basis points at 2.823 percent.

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