Stocks Retreat Amid Profit Taking, Surprising Fed Minutes

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As investors took some profits off the table and digested the day's various economic reports, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) took a step back, closing off roughly 21 points. "It made sense for the market to take a little breather after yesterday's huge rally," Schaeffer's Senior Equity Analyst Joe Bell noted, "so the slight pullback was not a shock."

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

plus...
  • A preview of tomorrow's job numbers, good news for Netflix ( NFLX ), and our Tweet of the day, which cites a smart contrarian principle.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) spent the majority of today's session south of breakeven, as a quick trip into positive territory was cut short by the Fed-minutes news. The blue-chip average closed off its intraday low of 13,358.30 to finish with a loss of 21.2 points, or close to 0.2%. A dozen of the 30 components finished higher on the day, led by Merck ( MRK ), which rallied 2.4%. The worst performer was UnitedHealth Group ( UNH ), as it surrendered 4.7% following a downgrade from Deutsche Bank. Coca-Cola (KO) ended flat for the session.

In similar fashion, the S&P 500 Index (SPX) , lost 3.1 points in Thursday's trading, shedding 0.2%, while the Nasdaq Composite (COMP) lagged its peers, dropping 11.7 points, or 0.4%.

Despite the market's pullback, the CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX) still continued to drift lower, inching down 0.1 point, or 0.8%.

CLOSING SUMMARY - INDICES

CLOSING SUMMARY - NYSE AND NASDAQ

A Trader's Take :

"We got a slew of economic reports related to the labor market today, but most of them failed to impress and didn't inspire much buying," Bell observed. "What was a little unexpected, though, was the information from the Fed minutes, which basically revealed that several members saw a need to halt QE efforts well before the end of 2013. This news," Bell reported, "was met with an increase in selling pressure toward the end of the day."

3 Things to Know About Today's Market :

  • Minutes from the most recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting reveal some disparity regarding when the central bank should discontinue its bond-buying efforts. The report noted that while some hawkish members prefer to halt the efforts immediately, those who want to continue them are of two schools of thought as well, divided between those who want to complete asset purchases "sometime around the middle of 2013," and those who think the purchases should extend further.
  • In a preview of coming events (tomorrow's nonfarm payrolls numbers), Automatic Data Processing (ADP) said the private sector added 215,000 jobs last month (on a month-over-month basis), while November's figure was revised higher to show a total gain of 148,000 jobs. The December number exceeded economists' expected increase of 150,000. Elsewhere, Challenger, Gray & Christmas said there were 523,362 job cuts in 2012, down 14% from 2011, and the lowest total on record in 15 years.
  • Google Inc (GOOG) executives are off the hook as far as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is concerned. For nearly two years, the FTC had been investigating the Internet search king for antitrust abuses, including favoring its own products (such as Google shopping) when populating search results. The agency concluded that no laws had been violated, but Google has agreed to relax its technology licensing practices in order to "allow competitors access ... to patents on critical standardized technologies needed to make popular devices," an FTC statement read.

Plus ... Twitter is now valued at more than $11 billion, at least according to one analyst who tracks the secondary markets. Fueling the site's perceived value are rumors that Apple Inc. (AAPL) may be interested in purchasing it. As recently as December 2010, Twitter's value was estimated at $3.7 billion. While there are hopes that another high-profile IPO could be looming, Twitter's CEO recently said there are no plans to take the company public.

Today's Top Tweet :

"Mark Weinstein (Market Wizard): 'Be your own person. Think against the herd, as they must lose in time' $$"
@matterhornbob, (BCarter), 10:03 a.m.

5 Stocks We Were Watching Today :

  1. Netflix ( NFLX ) benefited from a price-target hike from BMO, which lifted its 12-month outlook by $23 to $88.
  2. Las Vegas Sands (LVS) bulls expect a sharp rally in the coming weeks.
  3. eBay (EBAY) caught the interest of out-of-the-money call buyers with a short-term view.
  4. Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) invested in an entertainment-technology startup as it looks to improve its Xbox console.
  5. Boston Scientific (BSX) call buyers are banking on near-term upside.

EARNINGS

Question of the Day :

Q : What are the "Dogs of the Dow"?
A : The "Dogs of the Dow" theory is not -- as is one notion -- simply a grouping of the worst-performing names from the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Rather, it's the 10 Dow names with the highest dividend yields (dividend amount relative to stock price). As yield and price are inversely related, high yields often go hand in hand with some of the worst performers (hence, the popular misconception). Still, a popular strategy at the beginning of the year is to buy the 10 "Dog" stocks in hopes that these underperformers bottom out and produce gains. In fact, Bank of America (BAC) just went from worst to first, turning in the poorest performance among Dow stocks in 2011 ,and then emerging as the best Dow name in 2012.

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 settled lower on Thursday, as the February-dated contract gave back 20 cents, or 0.2%, to $92.92 per barrel. The yellow metal also lost ground, as February-dated gold slipped $14.20, or 0.8%, to settle at $1,674.60 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.

All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized reproduction of any SIR publication is strictly prohibited.


This article appears in: Investing , Options

Referenced Stocks: MRK , NFLX , SIRI , UNH , ZNGA

Schaeffer's Investment Research

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