Options Trading News

January 18, 2013  Fri 7:13 AM CT

Stocks are hovering in a range today after hitting another multi-year high yesterday.

Sentiment was brighter in the overnight session after China reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter gross domestic product. Japan rallied almost 3 percent, and Shanghai advanced more than 1 percent. But European indexes have been weakening through the morning as investors hesitate to put money to work following recent gains.

That has S&P 500 futures unchanged after slight gains earlier. The Nasdaq 100 is the most negative of the major benchmarks, indicated to fall by about one-third of 1 percent, after semiconductor giant Intel offered a cautious outlook yesterday afternoon.

The S&P 500 has been climbing since Dec. 31, when politicians in Washington reached a deal to avoid painful spending cuts and tax hikes. Data from the U.S. labor and housing markets, plus China and other parts of Asia, have continued to improve.

Attention is now shifting to corporate earnings season, which began in earnest this week with reports from major financials including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. INTC worried investors last night by forecasting first-quarter revenue of $12.7 billion, lower than the $12.91 billion expected by analysts. The company also said it needs to spend more money on research, potentially squeezing profits.

In other company-specific news, Research In Motion is higher by 6 percent before the bell after announcing it had developed a mobile-payments system and getting upgraded to "buy" at Jefferies. Morgan Stanley and General Electric are also up on strong earnings reports.

Foreign-exchange trading is cautious after strong bullish moves in recent weeks. The euro is retreating, along with other currencies associated with risk such as the Australian and Canadian dollars. Then yen is mostly higher as well.

Commodities are mixed, with oil and precious metals down by less than half a percent. Copper and most agricultural foodstuffs are positive.

The University of Michigan will also report its January consumer-sentiment number at 9:55 a.m. ET, which could affect sentiment early in the session.
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