Stocks Pare Losses on Afternoon Fiscal-Cliff Rumors

"Today was a crazy one, with the late rally on rumors," exclaimed Schaeffer's Senior Technical Strategist Ryan Detrick. The Dow Jones Industrial Average navigated a range of nearly 180 points, spent time on both sides of breakeven, breached the 13,000 level at one point, and closed -- somewhat astonishingly -- with only modest losses.

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

  • What is the "only way to trade" this rumor-driven and volatile environment? Senior Trading Analyst Bryan Sapp has a thought.
  • Bullish Sprint Nextel ( S ) traders see a new annual high in the cards.
  • Dissecting a long-term bearish bet in Ford Motor ( F ) .


  • A review of Tim Cook's earnings potential, an aggressive bet on Facebook ( FB ), and a good reminder for all contrarians in our Tweet of the day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) went on a wild ride today, plunging to an intraday low of 12,964.08 in afternoon trading -- the index's first trip south of 13,000 since Dec. 5 -- but paring most of these losses in a late-session show of strength. By the close, the average had given back 18.3 points, or 0.1%, and was perched back above the 13,000 round-number mark. Six of its 30 components closed in the black, led by UnitedHealth ( UNH ), IBM ( IBM ), and Microsoft (MSFT), which all gained 0.4%. Bringing up the rear was Cisco Systems (CSCO), with a loss of 1.4% on the day. Coca-Cola (KO) was flat for the session.

Price action was similarly volatile for the S&P 500 Index (SPX) and the Nasdaq Composite (COMP) . The SPX closed with a loss of 1.7 points (0.1%) after an early visit to the 1,401.80 mark. The tech-rich COMP settled with a modest pullback of 4.3 points, or 0.1%.

The CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX) was little changed, down 0.01 point.


A Trader's Take :

"Rumors, rumors, rumors," quipped Detrick. "We were down close to 150 points [on the Dow] at the lows, then a rumor about a budget vote on Sunday started to circulate. That was all it took. If you are a bullish on this market," he continued, "you had to love today's huge intraday reversal. We are nearing the final two trading days of the year and normally that's a bullish time, but this year is anything but normal! In the end, I think the best thing about today is we are one day closer to finally getting some type of fiscal-cliff resolution."

3 Things to Know About Today's Market :

  • With President Obama leaving his vacationing family to return to budget talks in Washington, widespread anxiety intensified over the perilously close fiscal cliff. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., offered the disconcerting prediction that a drop off the cliff is "where we're headed." Senator Reid also blamed House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, of running a "dictatorship" and dismissing the majority's wishes. In response, a Boehner spokesman advised Reid to "talk less and legislate more." Sources indicated later in the day that House members would return to business on Sunday to work on forging an eleventh-hour solution. Elsewhere, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner briefly grabbed the spotlight in order to warn that the debt ceiling will also be reached on Monday.
  • Initial jobless claims declined 12,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 350,000 (versus expectations for a rise to 365,000). A notable caveat from the Labor Department, however, is that some of the results were estimated, due to vacation time taken by state workers. Meanwhile, new home sales rose by 4.4% in November from the previous month, hitting a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 377,000 -- the highest reading since April 2010. Economists were expecting a slightly more modest advance to 375,000. The Conference Board's consumer confidence index, however, plunged to 65.1 this month versus a downwardly revised 71.5 in November, a steeper decline than the projected drop to 70.0.
  • Apple Inc. (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook absorbed quite a slash to his compensation in 2012, after a hefty payout in 2011 that included 1 million AAPL shares (that will vest at a later date). But don't feel too bad for the guy -- Cook still banked $1.4 million in salary, a bonus of $2.8 million, and various other monetary benefits such as 401(k) contributions from the company.

Plus ... Time Warner Cable (TWC) is reportedly testing a system wherein technicians would report for duty within a one-hour estimated window (versus the four-hour time block currently used). In early tests, the 60-minute time period was honored 98% of the time. Cosmo Kramer would be so proud.

Today's Top Tweet :

"If I find myself thinking like everyone else, or agreeing with everyone ... that's usually a sign I need to change my thinking."

@jfahmy, 11:00 a.m.

5 Stocks We Were Watching Today :

  1. Amazon.com (AMZN) took the number-one spot in a customer satisfaction survey about online shopping.
  2. Facebook Inc ( FB ) bears targeted a short-term decline in the shares.
  3. Deckers Outdoor (DECK) speculators opened out-of-the-money calls to wager on short-term upside.
  4. Teva Pharmaceutical (TEVA) dropped to a 14-month low and continues to battle technical resistance.
  5. ON Semiconductor (ONNN) has been luring bearish traders to its options pits.

Question of the Day :

Q : Will 2012 options volume surpass 2011 levels?

A : According to the Options Clearing Corporation (OCC), total options trading volume reached nearly 4.6 billion contracts in 2011, topping 2010 figures by 17%, clearing the 4 billion threshold for the first time, and setting a ninth consecutive annual record. This year, however, total option volume is likely to drop for the first time since 2002. Current data from the OCC shows total options volume of 3.72 billion contracts.

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


Commodities :

Oil futures inched lower on Thursday, with the February contract edging down 11 cents, or 0.1%, to $90.87 per barrel. Meanwhile, February-dated gold rose by $3 -- 0.2% -- to settle at $1,633.70 per ounce as the yellow metal benefited from its "safe haven" reputation.


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.

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

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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