Stocks nosed higher at Wednesday’s open, with the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq running side-by-side after mixed February sales and inflation data.
XAll three major indexes opened to 0.4% gains. Nike (NKE) led the Dow with a gain of nearly 1%.
China-based JD.Com (JD) jumped 1.6% to lead the Nasdaq 100, with Netflix (NFLX) up 1.2% and hot on its heels. Automaker Ford (F) surged nearly 6% to top the S&P 500, rising on an upgrade from J.P.Morgan.
Keep in mind, stocks rose for the first half hour of trade on Tuesday, then pulled back sharply. Wednesday’s action could very well continue to test the market’s still-young uptrend. The Dow has been unable to decisively retake its 10-week moving average since early February. The S&P 500 has managed to hold above its 50-day for the past three sessions, but has faced clear resistance at the 2,800 level. The Nasdaq is in the best technical shape, tapping out a new high Tuesday, then pulling back just enough to test support at its prior peak, around 7,500.
Markets in Asia traded lower, reacting to Tuesday’s U.S. market weakness. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ended down 0.5% and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo fell 0.9%. In Europe, stocks maintained moderate gains in afternoon trade, as data showing a surge in January and February steel production in China drove mining issues higher.
Early economic news was mixed. Retail sales slipped 0.1% in February, the Commerce Department reported, better than January’s 0.3% decline but well below economist estimates for a 0.4% advance. Producer price data from the Labor Department was more positive, up 0.2% in February, half of January’s 0.4% gain and in line with expectations. Core prices, minus energy and food, also rose 0.2% and met economists’ targets.
The Energy Information Administration delivers its weekly oil inventories update at 10:30 a.m. ET.
Walmart Chases Amazon; Ford Gets Double Upgrade, China Lodging Dives
On the Dow, Nike swung out to an early lead, rising in strong trade as the stock looked to break free of its recently stick 50-day moving average.
Ford roared to the top of teh S&P 500, rising more than 4% after J.P.Morgan upgraded the stock to overweight, from underweight, and hoisted the price target 50%, to 15. The note estimated Ford’s F-150 truck franchise on its own was worth 16 per share. Forst shares are trying to breakout of an almost three-year downtrend.
Apple (AAPL) slumped 0.7% at the open and all four FANG stock tech leaders traded higher. Netflix seized the group’s early lead with an eye on retaking Monday’s high. The stock is extended and in a profit-0taking zone following a January breakout.
Walmart (WMT) amped up its competition with Amazon.com (AMZN) by announcing Wednesday it would launch a grocery home delivery service in 100 cities by year’s end, with same-day-delivery in New York City. Amazon, Kroger (KR) and Target (TGT) had previously announced similar services. Walmart shares rose 0.4%.
Insurer Prudential (PUK) put up one of the morning’s best moves, rising nearly 6% after announcing plans to spin off M&G Prudential, its European savings and investment unit. The gain sent shares back above 10-week support and up the right side of a three-month base pattern.
The fourth-quarter earnings season was grinding to a close and investors were hard on slip ups early Wednesday. Signet Jewelers (SIG) dropped 13% after its report, biotech ImmunoCellular Therapeutics (IMUC) dived 10%.
Among IBD 50 stocks, Square (SQ) popped 5% higher to grab a new high. A note from Nomura’s Instinet said the point-of-sale technology provider is likely to benefit from high levels of willingness among merchants to accept bitcoin as payment, and found merchants were broadly please with Squares tools and services.
China Lodging Group (HTHT) dropped 11% following a weak fourth-quarter report late Tuesday. The loss damaged an eight-week base-building effort, sending shares sharply below their 10-week moving average.
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