Options Trading News

May 21, 2013  Tue 7:14 AM CT

Stocks are drifting lower on worries that Ben Bernanke may take the punchbowl away.

S&P 500 futures are down more than one-tenth of a percent after the index fell for only the fifth time in the last month yesterday. European bourses are mostly lower by about half a percent, while Asia was mixed overnight.

Attention is starting to focus on the Federal Reserve chairman's appearance before Congress' Joint Economic committee at 10 a.m. ET tomorrow. The central bank will also release minutes from its last meeting four hours later.

The Fed's easy-money policies are considered a key factor that has driven equities to their current record levels. But now that employment, housing, and the global economy have improved, investors are growing nervous that the central bank will become less accommodative. There are no economic releases on today's calendar.

Sentiment has been shifting in favor of a global-growth theme since the S&P 500 bounced at its 50-day moving average last month, with energy and emerging markets taking leadership from more conservative sectors. (There was considerable option activity in the energy space yesterday as call volume spiked in Apache and Parker Drilling.)

Our researchLAB market scanner also shows financials coming back to life, this time led by mortgage guarantors, credit-rating firms and loan servicers.

Foreign-exchange trading is mostly cautious this morning as well. The euro, Australian dollar, and Canadian dollar, usually associated with risk appetite, are all lower against the U.S. greenback. But the Japanese yen, which tends to move in the opposite direction, is mostly lower as well.

Oil and gold are falling by more than half a percent, and silver is down by a full percentage point. Copper is little-changed, and most agricultural foodstuffs are negative.

In company-specific news, retail giant Home Depot is up some 3.5 percent after quarterly results beat estimates and an improved housing market led management to raise guidance. Urban Outfitters is indicated lower by about 3 percent after quarterly sales missed expectations. Cruise-ship operator Carnival also fell more than 6 percent after lowering its estimates.

Apple will probably be active today as Congress examines the tech giant's corporate structure after a report indicated that it used Irish subsidiaries to lower its tax bill. AAPL is down more than 1 percent in pre-market trading.
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