Stock Market News Update
Tuesday, August 17, 2010

bulls running

Tuesday saw stocks rally after a Federal Reserve regional president said fears about the central bank's outlook were "unwarranted" and investors shifted their focus to strong earnings from Wal-Mart and Home Depot.

Also the bulls on Wall Street returned from their week-long vacation on Tuesday to witness a near-$40 billion bid to acquire Potash being rejected which helped lift the Dow 100 points.

It was a veritable running of the bulls on Wall Street, as solid blue-chip earnings and fresh merger-and-acquisition news converged into a day-long flurry of buying activity. Traders were cheered by stronger-than-expected earnings from Dow heavyweights Home Depot (HD) and Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), which eased a few lingering concerns about consumer spending habits. Elsewhere, BHP Billiton's (BHP) promptly rejected buyout bid for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (POT) sparked substantial gains across the agricultural chemicals sector. An upbeat round of economic data only fueled the bulls' fire, with traders cheering solid reports on manufacturing, production, and new home construction. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rushed to a triple-digit gain by midday, and the blue-chip barometer managed to snap its five-day losing streak in style.

Earnings and economic news aside, Schaeffer’s Senior Technical Strategist, Ryan Detrick thinks that M&A excitement was the main catalyst behind today's rally. "The POT news was viewed very bullishly by the Street," he said. "It proved that maybe select companies are worth substantially more than we think."

"There has been a tug of war between weak economic data and strong corporate results. Today, the earnings finally won," said John Praveen, chief investment strategist at Prudential International Investments Advisers LLC in New Jersey.

"We've got a cornucopia of good news. We had upbeat guidance from the largest retailer on the planet, M&A activity is picking up, and economic data that blew away all concerns about deflation," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Jefferies & Co.

Results for Major Market Indexes

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA – 10,405.85) finished with a good gain of 103.84 points, or 1.01%.



The S&P 500 Index (SPX – 1,092.54) also had a good gain, on the day, of 13.16 points, or 1.22%.


The Nasdaq Composite (COMP – 2,209.44) also fared well with an even bigger gain of 27.57 points, or 1.26%.

The Russell 2000 Index of smaller companies had a very good gain of 11.20 points, or 1.82%, to settle at 626.30.

Wall Street received the catalysts for the triple-digit rally before the markets even opened as Potash (POT) disclosed it received and rejected an unsolicited $38.5 billion takeover offer, sparking a rally in the resource sector, and consumer discretionary stocks cheered upgraded outlooks from Wal-Mart (WMT), Home Depot (HD) and TJX Cos. (TJX) .

Almost every Dow stock made headway, led by Home Depot and economically-sensitive Alcoa (AA) and Caterpillar (CAT) . The index's worst performers were Kraft (KFT) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) .

The Nasdaq Composite outpaced the broader markets, driven higher by big gains from technology stocks like Qualcomm (QCOM) and Garmin (GRMN) .

Trading Volume:

Volume continued to be low with 6.99 billion shares traded on the combined NYSE Arca, Nasdaq and American Stock Exchanges, significantly lower than last year's daily average of 9.65 billion.

On the New York Stock Exchange, advancers beat decliners 4 to 1. On Nasdaq, advancers beat decliners 3 to 1.

"If you are going to tell me that the volume is light, the Hindenburg Omen is in effect or that the economy is 'unusually uncertain,' then it shows that you are not listening to the market," Elliot Spar, market strategist at Stifel Nicolaus, wrote in an afternoon note.

Notes of Interest….

The Dow Jones Industrial Average’s (DJIA) was up 178 points at its intraday peak, but ran out of steam near the 10,480 region. The Dow eventually settled for a daily gain of 103.8 points, or 1%, as 27 of its 30 components trekked higher. Despite today's surge of buying pressure, the Dow notched a fifth straight daily finish below its 10-day, 20-day, and 200-day moving averages.

The S&P 500 Index’s (SPX) ended the day up 13.2 points, or 1.2%, after peaking squarely at 1,100 in afternoon trading. This region could prove to be a stubborn technical roadblock during the short term; not only does 1,100 represent round-number resistance, but the SPX's 10-day and 20-day moving averages are forming a bearish cross near 1,105.

The Nasdaq Composite (COMP), the tech-rich index, reclaimed the round-number 2,200 neighborhood by adding 27.6 points, or 1.3%. The COMP's intraday progress was capped by its 50-day moving average, which is lingering just shy of 2,230.

Crude futures climbed along with stocks today, as traders cheered a round of well-received corporate earnings and economic data. Black gold also benefited from a down day for the U.S. dollar, making the hot commodity a relative bargain for traders holding other currencies. Thanks to today's buying boost, oil effectively snapped its five-day losing streak. Crude oil for September delivery settled on a gain of 53 cents, or 0.7%, at $75.77 per barrel.

Gold futures rose, capitalizing on the greenback's weakness. However, the precious metal's gains were muted in comparison with its industrial counterparts -- platinum and palladium, in particular, bounced higher after the Fed reported a 9.9% jump in auto production during July. By the close, gold for December delivery was up $2.10, or 0.2%, at $1,228.30 per ounce.

Bonds: Prices for Treasurys were lower. The yield on the 10-year note rose to 2.64%, coming off a 17-month low of 2.58% late Monday.

Economic Concerns

Housing Starts

U.S. housing starts rose but to a much weaker rate than expected in July, while permits for future home construction fell to their lowest level in more than a year, according to a government report on Tuesday that pointed to a weak housing market.

The Commerce Department said housing starts rose 1.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 546,000 units. June's housing starts were revised to show an 8.7% fall, which was previously reported as a 5% drop.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected housing starts to rise to 560,000 units. Compared to July last year, groundbreaking activity was down 7%.

New building permits, which give a sense of future home construction, dropped 3.1% to a 565,000-unit pace last month, the lowest level since May 2009.

That followed a 1.6% rise in June and compared to analysts' forecasts for a slip to 580,000 units.

The end in April of a popular homebuyer tax credit has left a void in the housing market, depressing sales and building activity. Sentiment among home builders touched a 17-month low in August, a survey showed on Monday.

The rise in housing start last month reflected a 32.6% surge in groundbreaking activity in the volatile multifamily segment to an annual rate of 114,000 units. Single-family homes starts fell 4.2% to a 432,000-unit pace, the lowest since May 2009.

Home completions tumbled a record 32.8% to an all-time low 587,000-unit pace. The inventory of total houses under construction fell 1.1% to a record low 444,000 units last month, while the total number of units authorized but not yet started dropped 1.5% 89,000 units.

Producer Price Index

Wholesale prices rose last month for the first time since March on higher costs for food and passenger cars and trucks. Still, the increases were modest and show that the weak economy isn't spurring widespread price rises.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that the Producer Price Index, which measures price changes before they reach the consumer, rose by 0.2 percent in July, after three months of declines. The rise matched Wall Street economists' forecasts, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

Excluding volatile food and energy costs, so-called "core" producer prices rose by 0.3 percent in July, and the ninth straight increase. Core prices have risen by 1.5 percent in the past year.

The report comes after the Labor Department said Friday that consumer prices also rose in July for the first time in four months. The two reports may ease fears that the economy is about to experience deflation, a widespread and painful drop in prices and wages.

One big driver in higher producer prices was fresh and dry vegetables, which jumped in price by 9.8 percent, the most since March. Peas jumped by almost 81 percent, the most since October 2007. Tomatoes, which have been volatile for much of this year, soared by 68.6 percent, the most since March.

Egg prices rose in July by 19.4 percent, the most since April 2009.

Another big driver of the higher index was a 1.5 percent rise in the price of pickup trucks, SUVs, minivans and cargo vans. That was the biggest increase since January.

Over the past year, producer prices have risen by 4.2 percent, above June's figure but down from this spring, when the index increased by more than 5 percent in March, April and May.

Tame inflation allows the Federal Reserve to keep the key interest rate it controls at a record low of nearly zero percent in an effort to bolster economic growth. The Fed usually fights rising inflation by raising rates.

Rising output at the nation's factories, mines and utilities comes after multiple manufacturing reports had shown a pronounced slowdown over the past couple of months.

"That is fairly robust," Jeff Bagley, vice president and portfolio manager at Haverford Investments, said of the industrial production report. It's "another point of relief for investors."

Redbook Chain Store Sales

Redbook Research on Tuesday

released the following seasonally adjusted weekly data on U.S.

chain store sales:

Year-over-year: Week (w/e 08/14/10 vs year ago) +2.7 pct

Year-over-year:Month (Aug 2010 vs Aug 2009) +2.8 pct

Month-over-month: (Aug 2010 vs July 2010) +1.0 pct

The Johnson Redbook Retail Sales Index is a sales-weighted index of year-over-year same-store sales growth in a sample of large U.S. general merchandise retailers representing about 9,000 stores.

Overseas Concerns

In currencies: The dollar fell against the euro, but rose versus the U.K. pound and the Japanese yen.

Overseas Markets

European Markets finished higher. The CAC 40 in France gained 1.8%, Germany's DAX rose 1.6% and the FTSE 100 in Britain gained 1.4%.

Asian Markets: The Shanghai Composite and Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended the session with modest gains. Japan's benchmark Nikkei index, however, fell almost 0.4%.

Company Earnings Reports and News


Wal-Mart Stores (WMT)

Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) reported a slightly better-than-expected fiscal second-quarter profit Tuesday, although customers of the world's largest retailer continued to curb spending. Wal-Mart also boosted its full-year guidance. Shares of the retailer were up 1.3%.

Home Depot (HD)

Home improvement retailer Home Depot (HD) posted a better-than-expected second-quarter profit that rose from a year earlier, but its sales missed forecasts. Home Depot shares gained 3.6%.

Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF)

Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) saw its stock tumble nearly 7% even after the teen apparel retailer beat the Street with a non-GAAP profit of 22 cents a share. Analysts had been projecting EPS of 16 cents. It's possible shareholders were spooked by the company's gross margins sliding from 66.6% to 65.1%. Also, A&F announced plans to shut down 60 domestic stores and scaled back plans for international expansion.

Saks (SKS)

Saks (SKS) beat the Street with a non-GAAP loss of 13 cents a share, compared with estimates for a loss of 17 cents. Sales climbed by 5.1% to $593.1 million, narrowly topping estimates from analysts for $585 million. The luxury retailer forecasted second-half and full-year same-store sales growth in the mid-single digits and also detailed plans to shutter a pair of its Saks Fifth Avenue stores in California and Texas.

Eli Lilly (LLY)

Eli Lilly (LLY) slumped 2.3% after saying it is halting the development of its experimental Alzhemier’s drug semagacestat due to side effects. Also, the Food and Drug Administration raised safety concerns about its blockbuster antidepressant drug Cymbalta.

TJX Cos. (TJX)

TJX Cos. (TJX) posted an in-line non-GAAP second-quarter profit of 73 cents a share and a 6.8% rise in revenue to $5.07 billion. The parent of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls also upped its full-year non-GAAP EPS guidance.

Company News and Movements:


Potash (POT)

Shares of fertilizer producer Potash (POT) rose 28% after it rejected a $38 billion takeover offer by mining company BHP Billiton.

"The increase in M&A shows CEO's and CFO's have more confidence in the outlook for the economy and are willing to start to deploy some of the high cash balances, which have built up in recent months," said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial in Westport, Connecticut.

Pactiv (PTV)

Pactiv (PTV), the maker of Hefty trash bags, gained more than 5% after agreeing to be acquired by Reynolds Group Holdings, which is a subsidiary of a New Zealand firm, for $6 billion.

General Motors

General Motors is expected to file for an initial public offering of stock with U.S. securities regulators as early as Tuesday.



Options Movement

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF)

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF) marched into the earnings confessional before the open this morning to announce that its quarterly profit was well ahead of estimates, as discounts drew more customers and lifted sales. For the second quarter, ANF earned $19.5 million, or 22 cents per share. After adjusting for charges related to store closures, the teen retailer earned 24 cents a share, crushing the Street estimate of 16 cents per share. Quarterly sales jumped 17% to $745.8 million. The company said domestic sales, which account for the majority of its revenue, rose 8% to $612.6 million.

In other news, the firm plans to shut about 60 domestic stores over the fiscal year, and open 20 international mall-based Hollister stores -- down from the prior estimate of about 25 stores.

However, the shares fell this morning, as traders were evidently expecting more.

Heading into the earnings report, options players had high hopes for the shares. The International Securities Exchange (ISE) reported that three calls were purchased to open for every one put purchased to open during the past two trading weeks. This ratio of calls to puts is higher than 93.9% of all those taken during the past 12 months.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that some of these calls could be hedges against existing bearish bets on the shares. During the past two weeks, the number of ANF shares sold short increased by 3.5% to 9.6 million. This accumulation of bearish bets accounts for more than 11% of the company's total float. A call matched with shorted shares could protect the pessimistic positions from an unexpected rally in the security.

Elsewhere, we find that Wall Street has its doubts about the company. According to Zacks, the stock has earned 10 "buy" ratings and 18 "holds."

Technically speaking, the shares of ANF are up nearly 8% since the beginning of the year. The equity has been in a relatively steady uptrend since putting in a bottom in November 2008. Since that low, the equity has rallied more than 175%. Taking a closer look at the shares, the security has created a double bottom at the 30 level and is now attempting to resume its uptrend, but it is running into round-number resistance at the 40 level.


With the shares trading down more than 5% this morning, ANF could suffer a pullback to former support at the 30 level as the remaining bulls unload their long positions.

Dell Inc. (DELL)

Dell Inc. (DELL) has been hit with a heavy dose of option activity today, with roughly 13,000 contracts changing hands so far -- well above the tech stock's expected single-session volume of fewer than 9,200 contracts. With DELL reporting its first-quarter earnings after the close on Thursday, Aug. 19, let's take a look at the various expectations surrounding the shares ahead of the event.

For DELL's first quarter, analysts are predicting a profit of 30 cents per share. In the past four quarters, DELL has surpassed the consensus estimate three times and fallen short of expectations once.

In general, analysts are deadlocked on DELL, with Zacks reporting that 17 brokerage firms call the stock a "buy" or better, while 17 deem DELL a "hold" or worse. Given this polarized configuration, the jury could swing either way following any positive or negative earnings surprises.

Ahead of Thursday's earnings report, option players are trending toward the bullish end of the spectrum. In the same bullish vein, DELL sports a 10-day International Securities Exchange (ISE) and Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) call/put volume ratio of 2.22, indicating that calls bought to open have more than doubled puts purchased during the past two weeks.

The August 13 call has attracted the most attention today, with 1,862 contracts traded -- 83% of which crossed the tape at the ask price, indicating they were likely purchased. However, with some 19,600 contracts currently open at this strike, it's difficult to determine if these calls are newly added.

With DELL trading around $12.10, these calls are just barely out of the money. However, DELL may have trouble surmounting the $13 level by expiration this Friday. With the August 13 strike boasting peak call open interest for the front-month series, DELL is up against potentially daunting options-related resistance in the near term.

DELL has been a technical laggard in 2010, surrendering nearly 16.7% year-to-date. In the past 60 sessions, the computer concern has underperformed the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) by nearly 10%. The stock's descent picked up steam in April, causing DELL to slip past multiple layers of trendline support in the process.

DELL is now docked beneath its 10-week and 20-week moving averages, located around $13 and $14, respectively. Together, these intermediate-term trendlines have squelched the stock's progress since late April.


DELL is pinned beneath heavy technical and options-related resistance, yet traders have been scooping up calls left and right. Should DELL fail to meet analyst expectations on Thursday, an unwinding of optimism -- whether from option players or analysts -- could smack the shares sharply lower, adding to DELL's year-to-date deficit., inc. (CRM)

Tech stock, inc. (CRM) will release its second-quarter earnings after the close on Thursday, Aug. 19, with analysts looking for a profit of 27 cents per share. Ahead of the company's date in the earnings spotlight, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch upped its price target on CRM from $100 to $120, while also reiterating a "buy" rating on the stock.

CRM has put in an impressive performance in 2010, adding nearly 31% year-to-date. In fact, the equity has enjoyed strong support from its 10-week and 20-week moving averages since April 2009. However, lately CRM has run into a bit of trouble at the $100 level. The stock has been unable to consistently close above this round number during the past few weeks. CRM is currently trading around $99.24.

Meanwhile, call volume has accelerated ahead of CRM's quarterly report, with the International Securities Exchange (ISE) reporting that 1.3 calls have been bought to open for every put purchased during the past two weeks. This ratio ranks in the 76th annual percentile, indicating that traders on the ISE are initiating bullish bets on CRM at faster pace than usual lately.

This trend toward calls has continued today, with over 6,000 of these bullish bets changing hands by midday -- four times the stock's expected single-session call volume of just 1,424 contracts.

The August 100 call has been most popular today, with 2,428 contracts traded -- the majority of which changed hands at the ask price, indicating they were likely bought. If these calls were, in fact, bought to open, then it would appear that traders are counting on CRM to muscle above this round number in the next few days -- potentially after a strong earnings report.

options action

The following companies also had some impressive options movements:-

GT Solar International, Inc. (SOLR)


GT Solar International, Inc. (SOLR), the alternative energy issue has had a hectic session. The stock tapped a new annual high of $8.65 right out of the gate, but has since slumped to a loss of more than 4% following a bearish brokerage note.

Specifically, Raymond James slashed its opinion of SOLR to "market perform" from "outperform." However, the shares remain poised above support at their 10-day moving average, which hasn't been breached on a daily closing basis since July 29.

Put volume has ramped up on SOLR as a result of this negative note, with activity climbing to seven times the norm. Traders appear to be purchasing puts at the December 7.50 strike, which is narrowly out of the money at last check.

M&T Bank Corporation (MTB)

M&T Bank Corporation (MTB) is attracting attention due to buyout speculation. According to a Financial Times report, Spanish bank Santander (STD) is renewing its efforts to merge its U.S. operations with Wisconsin-based MTB. Earlier this year, talks between the two banks hit a brick wall due to a stand-off over which side would control the newly formed entity.


MTB has added more than 5% so far today, adding to its year-to-date gain of roughly 28%. The stock has been stymied by resistance in the $90 to $92 region since May, but MTB maintains the support of its 10-week and 20-week moving averages.

Call volume has accelerated to 15 times the norm on MTB as traders consider the revived buyout talks, with most of the attention centered on the stock's August 95 and September 100 calls. With MTB trading just shy of $90, both options are out of the money.

Short sellers are likely feeling the pain as MTB climbs the charts, as short interest represents 7.5% of the equity's float -- or 8.3 times the stock's average daily trading volume. Any reports confirming the rumored takeover talk could help force out some of these bears, supplying the stock with a fresh boost of buying pressure.

Research In Motion Limited (RIMM)

Research In Motion Limited (RIMM) was smacked with a downgrade from analysts at Wedbush. The brokerage firm not only cut RIMM from "outperform" to "neutral," but also lowered its price target on the shares from $65 to $57. Wedbush cited RIMM's "decent but not great" Blackberry Torch launch, as well as long-term concerns it has about the company.

RIMM has backpedaled some 1.8% so far today, to around $49.92. The stock has actually been in a steady downtrend since April, guided lower by its descending 10-week and 20-week moving averages during that time.

Unsurprisingly, option players have grown more skeptical of the tech company lately, as indicated by RIMM's 10-day International Securities Exchange (ISE) put/call volume ratio of 0.96, in the 88th annual percentile. In other words, speculators on the ISE have initiated puts on RIMM at a faster rate just 12% of the time during the past year.

This bearish trend has continued today, with 59,000 puts changing hands so far -- three times the Blackberry parent's expected single-session put volume of just 20,000 contracts.


Nearly 15,000 contracts have changed hands on the August 50 put -- the bulk of which traded at the ask price, suggesting they were bought. With roughly 25,000 contracts currently open at this strike, though, we cannot yet confirm that these puts are fresh positions. However, given the stock's post-downgrade slump today, these puts are now in the money.


Call volume has pretty much exploded on MBIA Inc. (MBI) today, with roughly 44,000 contracts changing hands so far. This flurry of activity represents 17 times the equity's expected daily call volume.


Most of the day's volume was tied up in two large block trades. Around 11:40 a.m., a block of 13,000 contracts traded near the bid price on MBI's August 8 call, indicating they were sold.

Simultaneously, a matching block of 13,000 contracts changed hands near the ask price on MBI's September 9 call, suggesting these options were purchased.


Open interest is outnumbering volume on the August-dated strike, but the September 9 call carries open interest of just 8,591 contracts -- so it's a safe bet that the September-dated calls are newly opened positions. With expiration Friday just days away, it's quite likely that a bullish bettor is closing out his August-dated calls, and rolling his position up and out to the September 9 strike.

Considering MBI's robust technical performance of late, it's no surprise that bullish bettors are raising their expectations for the shares. The stock has added nearly 131% year-to-date, and MBI recently pulled back to support from its 10-day moving average -- suggesting the shares are poised to launch into the next leg of their longer-term uptrend.

**Bullish flow detected in Chemical and Mining Co of Chile (SQM), with 2357 calls trading, or 8x the recent average daily call volume in the name.

** Bullish flow detected in Quicksilver Resources (KWK), with 8232 calls trading, or 5x the recent average daily call volume in the name.

**Bullish flow detected in Hologic (HOLX), with 4733 calls trading, or 4x the recent average daily call volume in the name.

**Increasing options action is also being seen in Potash (POT). Mosaic (MOS), and Las Vegas Sands (LVS).

Potash Corp of Saskatchewan Inc. (POT)

Potash was among the leaders in single stock flow as investors exchanged about 269,000 contracts in the name led by the trading of 159,000 calls, according to Trade Alert.



Wall Street’s triple-digit rally ends the Dow's five-day slump, which was its longest losing streak since the seven-day slide that ended on July 2. Hurt by fears of a double-dip recession, the benchmark index had lost 3.7% of its value over the past week. The Dow closed just fractionally lower on Monday, while the Nadaq Composite gained 0.4%.

August is so far living up to its reputation for being a historically slow month on Wall Street as volume on Monday was the lowest of the year, narrowly beating out the previous Monday’s low volume.

The gains, today, followed a choppy trading day on Wall Street on Monday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq managed to advance, rising about 0.4%, while the Dow and S&P 500 ended little changed.

Investors started the week coming off four consecutive sessions of losses, following a bearish statement from the Federal Reserve a week ago.

And while the Fed's outlook about a slowing economic recovery is still weighing on investors' minds, their fears were calmed on Tuesday when Narayana Kocherlakota -- head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis -- said those concerns about the central bank's statement are "unwarranted."

"My own interpretation is that the FOMC action led investors to believe that the economic situation in the United States was worse than they, the investors, had imagined. In my view, this reaction is unwarranted," Kocherlakota said in a speech Tuesday.

That statement helped propped markets up toward key psychological levels as the S&P 500 traded near 1,100 and the Dow looked to turned positive for the year in afternoon trading, said Dan Cook, senior market strategist with Chicago-based brokerage firm IG Markets. The Dow fell short of matching its 2009 close.

Cook said strong earnings reports from retail powerhouses Wal-Mart and Home Depot in the morning also helped to drive stocks higher.

But he added, he doesn't the think "the game has changed." "As far as the fundamentals and corporate earnings are concerned, I just don't get a warm, fuzzy feeling," he said. "I'm looking for choppy action for the foreseeable future, all the way into September."

The markets also managed to mostly shrug off the latest disappointing economic report as the government said July housing starts grew by less than forecasted.

“You can definitely say things were getting a little oversold in the near-term,” said Ryan Detrick, equities analyst at Schaeffer’s Investment Research. “That’s got the buyers out.”

Not everyone was sold on the rally, however, especially given continued fears of a double-dip recession. That thinking was supported by a late-day slide from the highs as the Dow had been up as much as 178 points at one point before trimming its gains in the final hours.

“There’s still too many clouds overhanging the economy to feel like the stock market has the potential to get some leg -- because it doesn’t," said Michael James, senior equities trader at Wedbush Morgan Securities. “Buyers who had been on the sideline, for the better part of the last week, jumped in to take advantage of the prices.”

It's too early to say whether stocks have recovered from a recent slump that sent the Dow falling almost 400 points over four days or whether Tuesday's advance was an upward blip. Many traders are on vacation, or avoiding any stock moves because of the uncertainty of the economy. That means low trading volume and price moves that can easily be exaggerated. The Dow rose almost 180 points before falling back to its closing level.

But Tuesday's reports provided a slice of optimism and some reassurance that the economy continues to expand, although at a slower pace than early this year.

"The data and earnings should ease people's concerns about a double-dip" recession, said Peter Bible, a partner at EisnerAmper. "We're anemic; we're slow; we're crawling, but we're not going backward."

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