Stocks try to hold line after drop
David Russell | [email protected]
S&P 500 futures were fractionally positive earlier but are now off slightly. Europe is down again on fears of tensions in Ukraine, led by a drop of more than 1 percent in Milan. Tokyo fell 3 percent overnight, leading the declines in Asia as the Japanese yen rallied. Australia and Hong Kong dropped a full percentage point as well, though Mumbai managed to eke out another gain.
Residents of Crimea will vote Sunday on whether their province should secede from Ukraine and effectively become a Russian client state. Western leaders oppose the vote and will likely impose economic sanctions against Moscow if it proceeds. That's hurt sentiment toward emerging markets and distracted attention from increasingly strong economic news in the United States.
Yesterday, for instance, weekly jobless claims and monthly retail sales exceeded expectations on the heels of strong manufacturing and payrolls numbers earlier in the month. Today's agenda includes consumer sentiment and producer prices, while next week brings various housing reports and a Federal Reserve policy announcement on Wednesday.
The S&P 500 declined 1.17 percent yesterday, its biggest drop since the start of last month. It's now back near the same 1850 level where it double-topped in December and January, so now the bulls will be looking for old resistance to become support.
Utilities were the only major sector to advance yesterday and have been the strongest area in the last week, according to optionMONSTER's researchLAB analysis tool. Oil refiners and gold miners have also climbed, while industrials and consumer-discretionary stocks have fallen the most.
In company-specific news, Aeropostale is indicated lower by 14 percent after reporting a wider-than-expected quarterly loss. Most other retailers have also struggled following a difficult holiday-shopping season. Ulta Salon, however, is up 8 percent after quarterly reports beat consensus estimates. General Mills dipped about 3 percent after pre-announcing weak profits.
Copper Tire & Rubber advanced 3 percent on strong earnings and revenues.
Commodities are mostly higher as silver and copper rise almost 1 percent and oil climbs about 0.5 percent. Corn and wheat are also posting small gains.
Currencies are mixed, with the safe-haven Japanese yen pushing higher across the board. But the euro and Australian dollar are attempting to rebound.