US economic data was a little better than expected today, which fueled an early rally, though volatility was mostly low as stock options expired. New York Empire Manufacturing reversed sharply in February to 10.04 from -7.78 last month, fueled by a large pickup in new orders, employment, and inventories. Later in the morning, industrial production for January fell 0.1% after rising 0.3% the month prior. The other industrial data point, capacity utilization, rose to 79.1%, but the month prior was revised up to 79.3% from 78.8% so it was actually a decline month-to-month. Lastly, the preliminary reading of the University of Michigan consumer confidence index rose to 76.3 from 73.8 in January.
Commodities remained under pressure as the yen experienced extreme volatility. The G20 statement leaked this morning did not address FX volatility as harshly as the G7 statement from earlier in the week had, leading to a sharp sell-off in the yen. Gold lost 1.6% and briefly dipped below the $1,600 level. WTI crude oil settled floor trading at $95.86, down 1.51% for the day.
In the afternoon, emails leaked from Wal-Mart
(NYSE:WMT) and showed the company's February sales are a "total disaster" and the worst start to a February in seven years. The company cited the payroll tax cut expiration and its associated tax increases for the dismal sales. Earlier today, Cleveland Research had pointed out slowing comparable sales this year from Wal-Mart.
Tomorrow's Financial Outlook
On Monday, US markets will be closed for Presidents' Day, though US futures markets will be open for half of the day. On Tuesday the only economic data point is the NAHB Housing Market Index. The future expectations gauge of real estate agents and homebuilders is expected to rise to 48 in February from 47 last month. This gauge continues to show increased optimism over future housing activity.
Globally, the ZEW institute will release its economic sentiment indicator. On Monday evening, the Reserve Bank of Australia will release the minutes of its meeting from earlier this month.
Earnings reports on the calendar include Westlake Chemical
(WLK), Sealed Air
(SEE), Marriott International
(DELL), CF Industries
(MDRX), Newfield Exploration
(TEX), and Fidelity National Financial
(FNF). The most notable report is Dell, due to its pending LBO deal.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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