A Rocky, Data-Fueled Trading Day Resolves Slightly Lower

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"Today felt almost like a repeat of the past several trading sessions," said Schaeffer's Senior Equity Analyst Joe Bell, CMT. "Small rallies were met with selling, and buyers came in on the dips. With that being said, small-caps and technology continue to lag and look very weak under the surface." During the course of the session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) partially recovered from an early morning sell-off to finish with a modest loss.

Continue reading for more on today's market, including :

  • BlackBerry Ltd ( BBRY ) options traders rushed to place bets ahead of tomorrow morning's earnings report ... and much of the activity centered on short-term calls.
  • Option bulls gambled on a short-term recovery in Herbalife Ltd. ( HLF ) shares, as the company makes efforts to clarify its marketing model.
  • And in case you missed it , here's a sample of how the Twitterverse reacted to yesterday's rocky debut of 'Candy Crush' developer King Digital Entertainment PLC ( KING ).
  • Plus ... The final word on last quarter's gross domestic product (GDP), big news for Microsoft Corporation's ( MSFT ) Windows users, and short-term shenanigans in the Tesla Motors Inc ( TSLA ) options pits.
Trading Topic of the Week -- Tips for Buying Weekly Options: Focus on liquid names with narrow bid/ask spreads . There are two major benefits here -- ease of entry and exit, and lower risk of slippage.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI - 16,264.23) spent time on both sides of breakeven, traded within a 109-point range, and ultimately settled on a minor loss of 4.8 points, or just 0.03%. Still, 16 of the Dow's 30 components managed to close in the black, led by Exxon Mobil Corporation (XOM), which rose 1.6%. Pacing the declining minority was International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), down 1.5% today.

The S&P 500 Index (SPX - 1,849.04) also endured choppy trading on the day, peeking into positive territory this morning before closing down 3.5 points, or 0.2%, and below the 1,850 support level. Tech stocks underperformed again, sending the Nasdaq Composite (COMP - 4,151.23) down 22.4 points, or 0.5%.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX - 14.62) also fell, shedding 0.3 point, or 2.1%, during the session. The "fear barometer" did, however, spend the majority of the session above breakeven.

CLOSING SUMMARY - INDICES

CLOSING SUMMARY - NYSE AND NASDAQ

A Trader's Take :

"We actually received some pretty decent economic news this morning, as the weekly jobless claims report was better than expected, while the fourth-quarter GDP reading came in above the preliminary estimate," Bell continued. "Perhaps some market participants are selling good news in anticipation of higher rates sooner rather than later. Whatever the case may be, we are definitely seeing a pickup in intraday volatility this year, relative to most of 2013."

5 Items on Our Radar Today :

  1. The third and final reading for the fourth-quarter 2013 GDP reflected economic growth of 2.6%, just shy of economists' expectations. The reading was north of February's 2.4% outlook, but below the 3.2% advance estimate reported in January. (Forbes)
  2. Initial jobless claims fell during the week ended March 22 to a four-month low, the Labor Department reported. Economists had expected a slight increase in the figure. Elsewhere, the monthly pending home sales figure dropped to its lowest level since October 2011, amid rising interest rates and brutal winter weather. (FOX Business; Reuters)
  3. Microsoft Corporation ( MSFT ) officially launched a version of its Office software suite that is compatible with Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) iPad. The product debuted in the App Store today, and is free of charge for those wanting to read and present content. Those wishing to edit or create content need an Office 365 subscription, which is $99.99 per year. (USA Today)
  4. Following some bad news from the Federal Reserve, Citigroup Inc (C) received lots of negative attention from Wall Street.
  5. Eleventh-hour option traders descended into the Tesla Motors Inc ( TSLA ) options pits, with decidedly different motives.

EARNINGS

For a look at today's options movers and commodities activity, head to page 2.

STOCKS - NOTABLE CALL ACTIVITY

STOCKS - NOTABLE PUT ACTIVITY

Commodities :

Oil futures approached a three-week high today, due to global supply concerns and declining inventories of black gold. By the end of the day, the May contract had tacked on $1.02, or 1%, to settle above the century mark at $101.28 per barrel.

Gold futures slid below $1,300 per ounce for the first time in roughly six weeks, as the dollar advanced amid well-received economic reports. At the close, the April contract was off $8.70, or 0.7%, to settle at $1,294.70 an ounce.

SCHAEFFER'S MARKET POSTURE



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.

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This article appears in: Investing , Options

Referenced Stocks: BBRY , HLF , KING , MSFT , TSLA

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