Bulls Hold the Reins as Indexes Approach Multi-Year Highs

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"The bears had their chance early, but in the end, the bulls once again took charge," summarized Schaeffer's Senior Technical Strategist Ryan Detrick, CMT. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) ended on a high note, closing near its intraday peak after marching steadily north during the second half of the trading day.

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


  • Inertia at the Bank of England, bullish trading in Netflix ( NFLX ), and a forest-for-the-trees take in our Tweet of the day.

After a fleeting trek below breakeven in late-morning trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) powered higher the rest of the day, closing just off its intraday peak with a gain of 81 points, or 0.6%. The Dow is now fewer than 200 points away from overtaking its October peak. The index's rally was far-reaching, as 25 of the 30 components powered higher on the day. Pacing the advancing majority was Bank of America ( BAC ), which bounded back from yesterday's backslide with a 3.1% gain. On the flip side was Alcoa ( AA ), which responded to a brokerage downgrade with a 1.2% pullback.

The S&P 500 Index (SPX) got within a chip-shot of marking a new five-year high but settled for a gain of 11 points, or 0.8%. The Nasdaq Composite (COMP) slightly lagged its index brethren, advancing 16 points, or 0.5%.

The CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX) avoided another multi-year low but did close off 0.3 point, or 2.4%, slightly off its intraday low of 13.33.

A Trader's Take :

"Although there wasn't any one major driver on the day, we took another step in the right direction," asserted Detrick. "You want to see weakness early, followed by late-day buying. Plus, when small-caps and mid-caps make new all-time highs, it can't be that bad of a day. Also," Detrick added, "we are one day closer to [Schaeffer's Senior Equity Analyst] Joe Bell's first-ever live television appearance. He'll be on FOX Business Network tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. Eastern -- tune in and see how my boy does!"

3 Things to Know About Today's Market :

  • In a move that surprised very few, both the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of England left their key interest rates unchanged at 0.75% and 0.5%, respectively. The latter also made no adjustments to its quantitative easing program, which currently stands at 375 billion pounds (roughly $604 billion). Of the 64 economists polled by Reuters, not one expected the Bank of England to change the interest rate or its commitment to the current stimulus program. Meanwhile, ECB President Mario Draghi was cautiously optimistic before the press, noting, "Several ... indicators have broadly stabilized ... and financial market confidence has improved significantly."
  • The Labor Department said initial jobless claims in the U.S. rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 371,000 last week, disappointing economists who were expecting the number to retreat to 363,000. The number of continuing unemployment claims, meanwhile, did decline by 127,000 to 3.1 million, hitting a 4.5-year low. Elsewhere, wholesale inventories rose 0.6% in November to a seasonally adjusted $498.95 billion, the Commerce Department reported. This exceeded economists' expectations for a 0.3% rise, and marked the fifth consecutive increase in wholesale inventory levels.
  • The whiplash isn't over for Herbalife (HLF) watchers. Hedge-fund manager Daniel Loeb swooped in to the troubled company's rescue, taking a more than 8% stake in the company late Wednesday. Meanwhile, the firm's president appeared on CNBC this morning to refute activist investor Bill Ackman's harsh claims that the company is no more than a "pyramid scheme." After a flirtation with positive territory this morning, the stock settled modestly lower, off its intraday lows.

Plus ... The 2013 Oscar nominations were released today, and "Lincoln" led the way with 12 Academy Award nods, including best picture, best director for Steven Spielberg, and best actor for Daniel Day-Lewis, who tackled the titular role. Among the most high-profile snubs included directors Kathryn Bigelow, Quentin Tarantino, and Ben Affleck (for "Zero Dark Thirty," "Django Unchained," and "Argo," respectively), and -- once again -- Leonardo DiCaprio for his villainous turn in "Django."

Today's Top Tweet :

"...while the indices are consolidating, take advantage of individual stocks. You have to put in the work to find them."

@jfahmy, (Joseph Fahmy), 2:23 p.m.

5 Stocks We Were Watching Today :

  1. Facebook (FB) saw a surge in bullish options volume , as speculators bought calls and sold puts.
  2. Netflix ( NFLX ) saw a rush of weekly options activity as bullish speculators gambled on a short-term pop higher.
  3. Short-term Intel (INTC) speculators placed bets against the semiconductor name's recent uptrend.
  4. ARM Holdings (ARMH) was targeted by put buyers, despite its recent visit to a new multi-year high.
  5. Microsoft (MSFT) was downgraded this morning at Morgan Stanley.

Question of the Day :

Q : What happens if the put I purchased is in the money when it expires?

A : Any option that is in the money by $0.01 or more is automatically exercised by the Options Clearing Corporation (OCC), unless you notify your brokerage firm otherwise. If you have bought a put and are automatically exercised, you will be required to deliver the shares from your account at the strike price. If you do not own the underlying stock, as many put buyers do not, your broker will add a short stock position in your account. This open short position leaves you vulnerable if the stock opens higher on Monday. The situation becomes even more complicated if you do not have the funds in your account required to buy the shares. In nearly all cases, you are better selling the option outright ahead of expiration.

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

Commodities :

February crude futures advanced on Thursday, adding 72 cents, or 0.8%, to close at $93.82 per barrel. February gold futures ended the day higher as well, tacking on $22.50, or 1.4%, to settle at $1,678 per ounce.

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 Nasdaq, Inc.

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

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