Equities Slip as Federal Open Market Committee Stands Pat
30-Jan-13 16:30 ET
[BRIEFING.COM] Equities began the day on a mixed note, but the slightly bearish bias which persisted throughout the day caused the major averages to end near their lows. The S&P 500 slipped 0.4%, and was the weakest performing index.
Shortly before the open, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said fourth quarter GDP contracted by 0.1%. This fell short of the 1.0% growth forecast by the Briefing.com consensus. While the number was a disappointment on the surface, a 22.2% decline in government defense spending contributed to the miss. Meanwhile, personal consumption expenditures, which account for more than 70% of GDP, rose 2.2%. This was the largest quarterly uptick since a 2.4% increase in consumption was reported during the first quarter of 2012. Additionally, the rise in spending was slightly above its eight-quarter average rate of change.
Morning trade proved to be largely uneventful as investors anticipated the afternoon policy statement from the Federal Open Market Committee. The pronouncements on the economy, inflation, and inflation expectations were little changed. It was said that growth in economic activity "has paused in recent months," but there didn't appear to be any undue concern about an extended downturn as the "pause" was attributed largely to weather and other transitory factors. The asset purchase program is expected to remain in place until unemployment slips below 6.5% or inflation projections take a turn for the worse.
While the FOMC statement and the GDP reading were in focus today, the market also received earnings from two notable names.
Amazon.com (AMZN 272.76, +12.41) jumped 4.8% after the online merchant reported its operating income well ahead of analyst expectations. The strength in Amazon helped the Nasdaq outperform for the bulk of the day, but the index succumbed to broader market weakness in afternoon trade.
Also of note, Boeing (BA 74.59, +0.94) gained 1.3% after its top and bottom lines came in ahead of the Capital IQ consensus estimates. However, the defense contractor guided its full-year 2013 earnings and revenue below consensus.
Though Boeing outperformed, the industrial space lost 0.9%, and was the worst performing S&P 500 sector.
Elsewhere, the Dow Jones Transportation Average lost 1.5%, and was a notable laggard. The bellwether sector lagged considerably as 17 of its 20 components settled with losses. The four railroads which comprise the transportation average were all down in excess of 1.0% with Union Pacific (UNP 131.17, -3.59) sagging 2.7%.
In addition, trucking stocks were broadly weaker. Con-way (CNW 31.56, -1.06) fell 3.3% while CH Robinson (CHRW 67.14, -0.78), JB Hunt (JBHT 67.19, -0.90), and Landstar (LSTR 58.36, -0.85) lost near 1.5% each. Note that today's underperformance from transportation stocks came after the average rallied more than 8.0% since the start of 2013.
As mentioned earlier, the S&P 500 was pressured by industrials (-0.9%). In addition, energy (-0.7%), materials (-0.6%), and financials (-0.5%) weighed. On the upside, utilities (UNCH) outperformed, and the sector was followed by discretionary (-0.2%) and consumer staples (-0.2%).
The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX 14.27, +0.96) added more than 7.0%, and settled at its highest level since January 7. Looking at the term structure of VIX futures, the front-month contracts received the most notable interest during today's session. In addition, October VIX futures have crept up to 20.00.
Today's floor volume at the New York Stock Exchange was in-line with its 50-day average as just over 700 million shares changed hands.
Looking back at the day's economic data, the weekly MBA Mortgage Index declined by 8.1% to follow last week's uptick of 7.0%.
According to today's ADP National Employment Report, employment in the nonfarm private business sector rose by 192K in January. This was above the 175K increase expected by the Briefing.com consensus. The prior month's reading was revised down to 185K from 215K.
Tomorrow, investors will receive a full slate of economic releases. At 7:30 ET, January Challenger Job Cuts will be announced. At 8:30, weekly initial and continuing claims, December personal income, personal spending, core PCE prices, and fourth quarter employment cost index will all be reported. Finally, the January Chicago PMI will cross the wires at 9:45 ET. In earnings of note, Dow Chemical (DOW 34.61, -0.12) and UPS (UPS 81.23, -0.98) will announce their quarterly results ahead of the open.