Mid-Day ETF Update: ETFs Firm, But Stock Gains Whittle Away as Boehner Says Little Progress Reached in Fiscal Talks

Active broad-market exchange-traded funds at mid-day:

SPDR S&P 500 ( SPY ): +0.37%

iShares MSCI Japan Index ( EWJ ): +0.81%

iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index ( EEM ): +0.72%

PowerShares QQQ Trust, Series 1 ( QQQ ): +0.53%

iShares Russell 2000 Index ( IWM ): +0.93%

Broad Market Indicators

Broad-market exchange-traded funds, including SPY, IWM, IVV and others, continue to be firmer. Actively traded PowerShares QQQ ( QQQ ) is up 0.5%.

U.S. stocks are paring back gains as House Speaker John Boehner said that there has been little progress in the talks between President Obama and House Republicans over the fiscal cliff issue. Boehner's comments have quashed earlier optimism that a compromise on the U.S. budget could be reached. Despite this, investors cheered upbeat housing data released today, with the report that U.S. pending home resales climbed to their highest level since 2007, jumping 5.2% to 104.8, above forecasts.

Winners and Losers

Financial -

Select Financial Sector SPDRs (XLF) is up 0.38%. Direxion Daily Financial Bull 3X shares (FAS) is up 1%. Its bearish counterpart, FAZ, is down 0.9%.

Among financial stocks, KBW Inc. (KBW) is down 0.35% as the investment bank and asset managers declared a special dividend of $2 a share payable Dec. 17 to shareholders of record on Dec. 10. KBW also said it will be reducing the cash portion to be paid to Stifel Financial Corp as part of the company's Nov. 5 merger agreement to reflect payment of the special dividend. SF shares are at $30.30 apiece, down 0.3%.

Technology -

Tech ETFs are in positive territory at mid-day: Technology Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLK), up 0.5%; iShares Dow Jones US Technology ETF (IYW), up 0.5%; iShares S&P North American Technology ETF (IGM), up 0.5%; and iShares S&P North American Technology-Software Index (IGV), up 0.65%.

Semiconductor ETFs, SPDR S&P Semiconductor (XSD) is up 0.89% and Semiconductor Sector Index Fund (SOXX) is up 0.26%.

SPDR S&P International Technology Sector ETF (IPK) is up 1.87% to within $1 of 52 week highs.

In sector news, BOS Better OnLine Solutions (BOSC) is up 70% after the company reported today a Q3 loss of $0.01 per share, versus the prior-year period's loss of $0.30 per share. Revenues were $5.39 mln, down from $8.2 mln in the same period last year. No analyst estimates were available for comparison.

Industrial -

Industrial ETFs are higher and closer to 52 week highs: Vanguard Industrials (VIS), up 0.4%; iShares Trust Dow Jones U.S. Industrial Sector Index Fund (IYJ), up 0.43%; and Select Sector SPDR-Industrial (XLI), up 0.4%.

Among ADRs, Rio Tinto (RIO) is now up 4.2% following a report on Reuters that stated the company is planning to cut $7 billion in costs over the next two years. RIO will also sell more assets to offset weaker commodity prices, and at the same time ramp up its production of iron ore, the report added.

Commodities -

Crude was up 1.54%; natural gas is down 2.74%. United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 1.4%. United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG) is down 3.8%.

Gold was up 0.46%; likewise, silver was up 1.41%. Among rare metal funds, SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 0.4% and iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 1.8%.

Healthcare -

Healthcare ETFs are firmer: Health Care SPDR (XLV), up 0.7%; Vanguard Health Care ETF (VHT), up 0.7%; and iShares Dow Jones US Healthcare (IYH), up 0.67%. Biotech ETF iShares NASDAQ Biotechnology Index (IBB), is up 1.3%.

In corporate news, DARA Biosciences (DARA) is up 16.5% and moving further away from near 52 week lows after it said that it has submitted an Orphan Drug Application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for KRN5500, a compound the company is developing as a treatment for a painful form of chronic chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. It was designated as a "Fast Track" drug by the FDA in October 2011.

Power Play -

Retail -

The retail sector is lower, underperforming the broader market as the most November sales reports from retailers came in below expectations. Retail ETFs are mostly weaker: SPDR S&P Retail (XRT), down 0.7%; While PowerShares Dynamic Retail (PMR) has turned positive and is now up 0.3%; and Market Vectors Retail ETF (RTH) is down 0.3%.

Among retailers that missed November same store sales estimates, Kohl's (KSS) is now down 10%, adding to earlier losses of some 6%. It reported November same store sales fell 5.6%, versus the Retail Metrics consensus of an increase of 2.1%. Total sales for the month decreased 4.9% to $1.84 bln from $1.93 bln in the same month last year. Other retailers that missed expectations include Nordstrom (JWN), down 1.29%, reporting comps decline of 1.1% versus the Retail Metrics consensus of an increase of 4.5%; Macy's (M), down 2.63%, reporting comps decline of 0.7% versus the Retail Metrics consensus of an increase of 2.5%; and Target (TGT), down 1.13%, reporting comps decline of 1% versus the Retail Metrics consensus of an increase of 2.1%

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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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