It's been a rocky morning on Wall Street, with the Dow Jones
Industrial Average (DJIA) bouncing back from an 80-point loss to
trade just shy of the 10,850 level at last check. The blue-chip
barometer quickly plunged on the open, after the Conference Board
reported that the consumer confidence gauge fell to 48.5 in
September, hitting its lowest level since February. The news
overshadowed a rise in the Case-Shiller home price index. The Dow
rebounded from growing support in the 10,750 region, but has been
unable gain a foothold above 10,850 in intraday trading.
Overall, two thirds of the Dow's 30 components are trading in
positive territory, with The Travelers Companies Inc. (
) and The Home Depot Inc. (
) rising to the top, while Alcoa Inc. (
) and Cisco Systems Inc. (
) are sinking to the bottom.
In equity news, shares of Walgreen Co. (
) have soared more than 10% to hit a four-month high, as traders
cheered the company's
stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings
. Specifically, Walgreen said that its fourth-quarter earnings,
excluding items, came in at 54 cents per share, as revenue rose to
$16.9 billion. Analysts were looking for a profit of 44 cents per
share. Looking ahead, Walgreen said it was "confident" that
earnings would continue to grow.
Taking a closer look at this morning's economic data, the prices
of single-family homes rose a non-seasonally unadjusted 0.6% in
July, according to the Case-Shiller home price index. Prices have
added 3.2% in the past year. Prices rose in 12 of the 20
metropolitan areas tracked by Case-Shiller. Economists expect home
prices to moderate in coming months as demand slows.
However, the rise in home prices was overshadowed by a sharp
drop in consumer confidence. Specifically, the Conference Board's
consumer confidence index fell to 48.5 in September, hitting the
lowest level since February. Economists were expecting a reading of
51.5. Within the report, consumers' expectations dropped to 65.4 in
September, while the current conditions index fell to 23.1 - both
readings were at their lowest levels since February.
Unusual Put and Call Activity:
On the options front, the iShares Russell 200 Index Fund (
) exchange-traded fund (
) is dominating the put side of the coin today, with more than
153,000 of these bearishly oriented contracts changing hands.
Volume has more than doubled IWM's daily average of 76,648
contracts. Digging deeper, we find that the out-of-the-money
November 59 strike is the most popular, attracting more than 51,000
contracts at last check.
On the call side, Baidu Inc. (
) is popular once again, with volume of 47,000 contracts more than
tripling the stock's daily average of just 14,928 contracts.
Traders have zeroed in on the stock's out-of-the-money October 105
call, as peak volume of 7,522 contracts has changed hands at this
strike so far today. Earlier in the session, BIDU tagged yet
another all-time high of $107.19 per share.
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