Mid-Day ETF Update: ETFs, Stocks Higher Despite Weak Existing Home Sales Data

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Active broad-market exchange-traded funds at Friday's regular session:

SPDR S&P 500 ( SPY ): +0.34%, near all-time highs

iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index ( EEM ): +0.69%.

Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF ( GDX ): -0.82%

iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures ( VXX ): -1.08%

PowerShares QQQ Trust, Series 1 ( QQQ ): +0.29%, hit a 13-year high

Broad Market Indicators

Most broad market exchange-traded funds extended their gains. Actively traded PowerShares QQQ ( QQQ ) was up 0.29%, reaching $90.46 - its highest since September 2000.

U.S. stocks continued to trade in positive territory, finding some support from positive earnings from companies such as Commscope (COMM) and Strayer Education (STRA). Market sentiment also brightened following news the Ukraine government and opposition forces have signed a peace pact, paving the way for the resolution to the months-long political crisis that escalated to violence this week. Investors shrugged off weak housing data that showed sales of existing homes fell 5.1% in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million.

Power Play: Technology

Technology Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLK) and iShares Dow Jones US Technology ETF (IYW) their highest level in more than 12 years while iShares S&P North American Technology ETF (IGM) and iShares S&P North American Technology-Software Index (IGV) climbed to record highs. SPDR S&P International Technology Sector ETF (IPK) was flat.

Among semiconductor ETFs, SPDR S&P Semiconductor (XSD) and Semiconductor Sector Index Fund (SOXX) were lower, and reached or were near their record highs.

In stocks news, Commscope Holding Company Inc. (COMM) rose 19% and reached an all-time high of $24.38 Friday after reporting Q4 earnings per share of $0.30, beating the analyst consensus estimate of $0.29. The company also reported revenue of $847 million for Q4, while analysts had forecast revenue of $820.50 million. Meanwhile, analysts at Jefferies upgraded the stock to Buy from Hold and raised the price target to $25 from $17.5 per share.

Winners and Losers

Financial

Select Financial Sector SPDRs (XLF) was up 0.49%. Direxion Daily Financial Bull 3X shares (FAS) climbed higher 1.47%. Its bearish counterpart, FAZ, was down 1.36%.

Among financial stocks, Donegal Group (DGICA) was up more than 4% after it reported Q4 net income of $9.6 million or $0.36 per Class A share, compared with $6.22 million or $0.25 per share in the same quarter of 2012. Operating income, a non-GAAP measure, was $9.9 million or $0.37 per Class A share, compared with $5.09 million or $0.20 per share. The Capital IQ consensus estimate was for $0.27 EPS. The company said its statutory expense ratio was 32.2% for the quarter, compared with 28.5% for the same quarter in 2012. The increase in expense ratio reflected higher underwriting-based incentive costs that resulted from significantly improved underwriting results for the quarter.

Energy

Dow Jones U.S. Energy Fund (IYE) was down 0.18%, and Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) was down 0.29%.

In corporate news, Cabot Oil & Gas (COG) was down nearly 7% in Friday trading despite late Thursday posting Q4 per-share earnings and revenue that topped analyst forecasts. The company earned $0.18 per share during its December quarter, excluding non-recurring items, up from a $0.10 per share gain in the year-ago period and edging the Wall Street consensus by $0.01. Revenues rose 31.8% year over year to $487.5 million, beating estimates by $15.12 million.

Commodities

Crude was down 0.97%; United States Oil Fund (USO) was down 0.98%. Natural gas was down 0.21% and United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG) was up 0.22%, nearing its record highs.

Gold was up 0.281% and silver was up 0.04%. Among rare metal funds, SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) was down 0.18%; iShares Silver Trust (SLV) was down 0.57%.

Consumer

Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP), Vanguard Consumer Staples ETF (VDC) and iShares Dow Jones US Consumer Goods (IYK) were higher.

In stocks news, post-secondary education services provider Strayer Education Inc. (STRA) was higher 27% after saying Q4 2013 adjusted diluted EPS was $1.32 versus the Capital IQ consensus of $0.98. Revenue totaled $124.1 million, down 13% from last year's $141.9 million. The average analyst estimate was $119 million, according to Capital IQ.

Healthcare

Health Care SPDR (XLV), Vanguard Health Care ETF (VHT) and iShares Dow Jones US Healthcare (IYH) jumped to record highs. Biotech ETF iShares NASDAQ Biotechnology Index (IBB) was up 1.95%, also hitting an all-time high.

In corporate news, Isis Pharmaceuticals (ISIS) jumped to an all-time high of $59.43 after saying a study of its ISIS-SMN Rx drug in children with spinal muscular atrophy showed an average increase of 3.7 points observed in muscle function score. The children were treated with 9 pm of the drug, which also showed dose-dependent increases in SMN protein levels in children treated with ISIS-SMNRx from both single- and multiple-dose studies. Isis said the drug was well tolerated at all dose levels.



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 , Commodities

Referenced Stocks: SPY , EEM , GDX , VXX , QQQ

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