Earnings were again the focus of U.S. investors during Thursday trading as a number of key companies gave their quarterly updates. Unfortunately, a series of solid results from corporations wasn't enough to overcome more worry over Europe and potential weakness in jobless claims.
As a result, the major indexes all finished the day lower by a little over half a percent while the Nasdaq led the way on the downside, tumbling by about 0.8%. Among the biggest losers were tech giant Apple, the railroad sector, and a number of big banks such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo, which finished lower by several percentage points (read Bet Against The Dollar With These Three Currency ETFs ).
Yet despite the concerns over Europe, the dollar managed to make little headway against the world's other currencies. The dollar index was flat on the day while the 10 year saw minimal inflows as a safe haven as yields fell just one basis point to 1.97% for this American debt benchmark.
Commodity trading was more positive as softs and precious metals led the way higher. The few losers came in cocoa, sugar, and natural gas once again as the key heating and cooling fuel fell by about 2.4% after another bearish storage report hit the markets.
In ETF trading, investors saw solid volume in a variety of equity products as many sought to express their views on the state of the market. QQQ saw solid trading activity while small caps also experienced a decent bump in volume. In particular, semiconductor, biotech, and commodity producer ETFs saw outsized activity in Thursday's session.
For specific ETFs that had outsized activity, the landscape was dominated by niche ETFs focusing on American sectors. One such case was the Vanguard Telecommunications Services Index Fund ( VOX ) which saw volume of 744,000 shares compared to an average of about 50,000 shares (see Are Telecom ETFs In Trouble? ).
The ETF fell by about 0.7% in trading on the day despite the positive earnings report from Verizon Communications ( VZ ) . The company beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate by two cents a share-0.59 to 0.57-and gained 1.3% on the day.
Since this stock makes up nearly 23% of exposure in VOX, the solid report could be a key reason for the spike in investor interest in this telecom ETF today. This is especially true as VOX is one of the more concentrated funds in the space and can thus be a good proxy for large cap exposure in the telecom world, particularly ahead of AT&T's report next week.
Beyond this fund, investors also saw a spike in interest in the iShares Dow Jones US Healthcare Providers ETF ( IHF ) . This medical ETF with nearly a quarter billion in AUM saw a huge uptick in volume on the day coming in at nearly 840,000 shares compared to an average of about 68,000 (see Three Low Beta Sector ETFs ).
This huge move in volume was likely due to the second biggest component in the ETF reporting today, UnitedHealth Group ( UNH ) . The firm was up nearly 2.4% on the day as it crushed the Zacks Consensus Estimate beating expectations by about 15 cents a share. This company accounts for nearly 13% of IHF and acts as a bellwether for the broad industry, spurring more investors to take the plunge on this space ahead of the rest of earnings season.
(see more on ETF Trading in the Zacks ETF Center )