After seeing considerable strength in morning trading on Thursday, stocks are showing some uncertainty in the mid-afternoon. The major averages have pulled back well off their highs, with the Dow bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line.
The early strength in the markets came as traders reacted positively to a Labor Department report showing a notable decrease in weekly jobless claims along with better than expected quarterly results from companies such as Dow Chemical (DOW) and Tyco (TYC).
News that embattled automaker Chrysler has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection contributed to the pullback by the markets. While the move was widely expected, it offset some of the recent optimism about the outlook for the economy.
Speaking at the White House earlier in the day, President Barack Obama revealed that Chrysler would file for bankruptcy while it works to finalize a partnership with Italian automaker Fiat.
Obama said that he expects Chrysler's bankruptcy to be quick and minimally disruptive and said he believes the company will emerge from the process stronger and more competitive.
Although Chrysler was a pillar of the U.S. auto industry for some time, its inability to move fast enough to adapt to the changing market marked the beginning of its demise.
We simply cannot keep this company or any company afloat on an endless supply of tax dollars, Obama said.
He noted that the government would provide nearly $3.5 billion to keep the company somewhat functioning while the filing takes place and an additional $4.7 billion once Fiat takes over.
The major averages have moved to the upside in recent trading, although they remain well off their best levels of the day. The Dow is currently up 28.67 at 8,214.40, the Nasdaq is up 16.15 at 1,728.09 and the S&P 500 is up 3.78 at 877.42.
Despite the lack of direction that has been shown by the Dow in recent trading, several of the components of the blue chip index are posting notable gains. General Motors (GM) is turning in one of the best performances on the heels of the Chrysler news, rising 7.2 percent.
Shares of Caterpillar (CAT) have also shown a strong upward move, with the construction equipment maker currently up 5.6 percent. At its high for the session, Caterpillar was at its best intraday level in three months.
Disney (DIS), Alcoa (AA), and General Electric (GE) are among the other Dow components that are posting notable gains. Shares of Disney are currently up 5.6 percent after reaching a more than three-month intraday high.
On the other hand, Chevron (CVX) and Exxon Mobil (XOM) are posting notable losses, reflecting considerable weakness in the energy sector. Exxon Mobil is down 1.9 percent after reporting weaker than expected first quarter earnings.
JP Morgan (JPM), McDonald's (MCD), and Procter & Gamble (PG) are also under pressure, with P&G down 1.9 percent despite reporting first quarter earnings that beat analyst estimates.
While the major sectors are turning in a mixed performance in mid-afternoon trading, significant strength remains visible among healthcare provider stocks. The Morgan Stanley Healthcare Provider Index is currently up 3.8 percent, rising to a nearly seven-month intraday high.
Steel stocks also continue to post considerable gains, as reflected by the 4.2 percent gain currently being shown by the Amex Steel Index. Some electronic storage, semiconductor, and chemical stocks also continue to post notable gains.
On the other hand, biotechnology stocks have shown a notable move to the downside over the course of the trading day, dragging the Amex Biotechnology Index down 3.2 percent. Sequenom (SQNM) is leading the sector lower, falling 75.5 percent.
Significant weakness is also visible among energy gold, defense, and airline stocks. As mentioned above, the weakness among energy stocks comes after oil giant Exxon Mobil reported first quarter earnings that fell more than expected.
In overseas trading, the major Asia-Pacific markets showed strong upward moves on Thursday, with the strength seen on Wall Street overnight generating some buying interest. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index moved sharply higher, closing up 3.9 percent.
European stocks also ended the day considerably higher, with the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index rising 1.3 percent on the day, while the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index both ended the session up 1.4 percent.
In the bond market, treasuries continue to see some weakness, although they have moved off their worst levels of the day. Subsequently, the yield on the ten-year note is currently up 4 basis points at 3.136 percent after reaching a five-month intraday high of 3.166 percent.
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