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Whipsawed!

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The major market indexes have been whipsawed to the downside and then back higher after earlier news that a Staten Island oil refinery had caught fire in New York. The news sent the Dow Industrials (INDU) 8,014 +1.24% to a session low of 7,854. After reports were made that the fire was not considered an act of terrorism, the Dow recouped their decline and have now built gains to their best levels of the session.

Helping the major market indexes push to session highs is a recent report that Iraq said it is willing to sit down and talk with the United States, if it will pull its military forces out of the region.

It's been a rather wild trading session today, and not just for stocks. While not showing as much volatility as the equity indexes, Treasury bonds have been whipsawed by today's news events. Treasuries, which have seen selling for the bulk of today's session, did see a spurt of buying on news of the refinery fire in Staten Island, New York. Just prior to the "Iraq news" Treasuries looked to be reversing some of their earlier losses, but suddenly found renewed selling with the 10- year YIELD ($TNX.X) 3.901% jumping from 3.854% to a recent session high of 3.903% in the span of 20-minutes.

While the Dow has seen some sharp price swings, the more volatile NASDAQ-100 Index Tracking Stock (AMEX:QQQ) has seen wild swings that span the range of all of its DAILY pivot analysis levels. We haven't seen this type of volatility where one extreme is traded only to reverse back to the other side.

Sector action is now broadly positive with limited weakness in the Gold/Silver Index (XAU.X) 72.18 -2.49% and Networking Index (NWX.X) 144.48 -1.82%.

Oil service stocks are leading today's sector gainers with the Oil Service Index (OSX.X) 87.86 rising 3.14%. The Utility Index (UTY.X) 239 +1.23% is seeing gains after Lehman Brothers upgraded the group to "neutral" from "negative," saying valuations are now at reasonable levels given challenging fundamentals. Lehman upgraded shares of American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP) $21.51 +3.76% to "overweight" from "equal-weight," OGE Energy (NYSE:OGE) $17.34 +2.48% and Hawaiian Elec. (NYSE:HE) $40.64 +2.23% to "equal-weight" from "underweight."

Shares of Lucent Technology (NYSE:LU) $1.55 -5.45% are the most actively traded stock. While this is not a surprise considering the stock's price, yesterday's FCC decision has had telecom equipment and regional Bell's under pressure today. Shares of SBC Communications (NYSE:SBC) $20.97 -1.5% are today's Dow component loser.

Shares of semiconductor giant Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) $16.82 -1.11% are today's second-most actively traded stock. I've seen little news to explain today's weakness in Intel, but it may be related to news that the European Union will impose duties on Korean memory chip producer Hynix due to the state subsidies it receives. The tariff will be 30% after March. In recent months, Micron Technology (NYSE:MU) $7.55 -2.58% has been pushing for similar tariff on Hynix in the U.S. Matthias Pindter, an analyst for Banco Santander Central Hispano in Frankfurt, said that even if a 30% tariff increased memory chip prices by an equivalent 30%, it would not make a big difference, since the benchmark memory chip is trading at around $30, down 50% since the beginning of the year.

Options traders should remember that today is stock option expiration for February. Double check your accounts to make sure of positions and option expirations.

Jeff Bailey

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