Stocks Break Out of Trading Range as S&P 500 Hits Five-Year High

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"Well, we went nowhere for a week then jumped higher today," noted Schaeffer's Senior Technical Strategist Ryan Detrick, CMT. "As I said yesterday, the old Wall Street adage is, 'Never short a dull market.'" The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) didn't manage to close atop the 13,600 level or achieve any new milestones, but it did gain nearly 85 points today. "Although earnings weren't that great," Detrick admitted, "a big drop in initial jobless claims and very strong housing data was all it took to have a nice rally."

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

  • Reasons to target a 20% pullback in Molycorp ( MCP ), from Senior Options Strategist Tony Venosa, CMT.
  • Senior Trading Analyst Bryan Sapp offers an update on "well-defined levels to trade against and manage risk."
  • Bearish Nokia ( NOK ) option traders are (again) trying to call a top .
plus...
  • Mixed earnings results from big banking names, option betting ahead of an FDA verdict, and another astute observation from one of our favorite Twitter users.

After peaking at 13,633.89 in the early afternoon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) settled up 85 points, or 0.6%. The blue-chip index failed to hit a new annual high on an intraday basis and missed closing at a new multi-year high, as well. Of the 30 Dow components, 24 moved higher today, led by Intel ( INTC ), which gained 2.6% ahead of tonight's earnings report. On the down side, Bank of America ( BAC ) lost 4.2%.

The S&P 500 Index (SPX) , meanwhile, finally conquered its former peak and stretched to its highest point in half a decade. By the close, the SPX was up 8.3 points, or 0.6%, and rallied as high as 1,485.16 during the session. The Nasdaq Composite (COMP) advanced as well, gaining 18.5 points, or 0.6%, and getting within 53 points of its annual peak during intraday trading.

The CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX) pegged another multi-year low of 13.16 during Thursday's trading but managed to end modestly higher, up 0.2 point or 1.1%.

CLOSING SUMMARY - INDICES

CLOSING SUMMARY - NYSE AND NASDAQ

A Trader's Take :

"I guess any time you make new highs in small-caps, mid-caps, transportation stocks, and junk bonds, you'd have to consider that a good day," remarked Detrick. "While we have noticed some definite increases in overall optimism, in the end price is what matters, and the charts still look rather bullish to me. Be careful, though," he warned, "as we often pull back during the second half of January, and various sentiment polls are becoming elevated in terms of bullish sentiment. Still, you can't argue with the strong price action and wide participation from a variety of sectors."

3 Things to Know About Today's Market :

  • Investors were cheered by two nuggets of economic news today. First, the Labor Department announced a decline in weekly jobless claims, which dropped by 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 335,000. This number was bigger news than usual, as it marked a five-year low in the figure. Elsewhere, the Commerce Department reported a 12.1% increase in housing starts for December, marking a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 954,000, or the highest point since mid-2008. What's more, the upward swing was well above analysts' expectations for a 3.4% rise.
  • Banks had another big day in the earnings confessional, led by mega-caps Citigroup ( C ) and BAC. The former fell notably short of analysts' expectations amid what its CEO called a "challenging" environment. BAC, meanwhile, exceeded consensus estimates but saw its profit potential crimped by mortgage settlement payments.
  • In Washington, House Republicans are considering lifting the U.S. debt ceiling on a temporary basis. Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said a one-month extension would allow more discussion time between the two chambers of Congress and the White House. White House press secretary Jay Carney didn't appear enthusiastic in response, referring to the short-term extension as "drama."

Plus ... it's getting costlier to stay healthy. Unnaturally chilly temperatures along the West Coast have had an ill effect on the vegetable crop, and prices are rising as a result. Almost all of the nation's supply of popular vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and artichokes are grown in Southern California and Arizona during the winter months. As this supply has dropped, a price hike has naturally followed. Romaine lettuce prices have nearly tripled this year, as have broccoli prices. The recent cold snap could even result in a "critical" shortage of some vegetables over the next few weeks, according to experts.

Today's Top Tweet :

"Russell 2000, S&P Small-Cap 600 and S&P Mid-Cap 400 are all pointing towards all-time highs. In other news, DEBT CEILING."
@EddyElfenbein, (Eddy Elfenbein), 11:54 a.m.

5 Stocks We Were Watching Today :

  1. Put buyers are hoping for a post-earnings drop in Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).
  2. Option bulls bet big on NuPathe (PATH) ahead of a big FDA decision.
  3. Short-term General Electric (GE) calls were popular as traders loaded up ahead of earnings.
  4. Cisco Systems (CSCO) was downgraded at J.P. Morgan Securities this morning.
  5. Pessimism has begun to accelerate in the Groupon (GRPN) option pits.

EARNINGS

Question of the Day :

Q : What is a good-til-canceled order?
A : The good-til-canceled (GTC) order is yet another common variation of the limit order. Unlike day orders, a GTC order will remain open until it is either filled or canceled. If you anticipate it might be a while until the stock reaches your target entry or exit point, but you want to jump in as soon possible, this order is probably a good choice for you. However, your order won't remain open indefinitely; a common time frame for these orders to expire is 60 days, but check with your broker to be sure.

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

STOCKS - NOTABLE CALL ACTIVITY

STOCKS - NOTABLE PUT ACTIVITY

Commodities :

Crude futures followed stocks higher today, in part due to a hostage situation in oil-rich Algeria. February-dated futures ended the session up $1.25, or 1.3%, at $95.49 per barrel. Gold futures were also in the black, with the front-month contract adding $7.60, or 0.5%, to settle at $1,690.80 per ounce.

SCHAEFFER'S MARKET POSTURE

At the end of every market day, the staff at Schaeffer's Investment Research reviews the trading day in detail, covering major events and key market developments. Don't miss this critical, timely and insightful report. If you enjoyed today's edition of Market Recap, sign up here for free daily delivery straight to your inbox.



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: BAC , C , INTC , MCP , NOK

Schaeffer's Investment Research

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