Stocks got another Europe-induced boost on Monday after Merkozy, the cute verbal combination of Geman Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicholas Sarkozy, circled Nov. 3 on their calendars as the day their plan to recapitalize European banks and perhaps do something about Greece will be delivered. That was good enough to send the S&P 500 to its best one-day performance since August and light a fire under almost anything that can be considered a ''riskier asset.''
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 330 points and all 30 of the index's constituents were high on the day. In a true testament to the ''risk on trade'' coming back into vogue for one day at least, the Dow's four worst performers today were Procter & Gamble (PG), McDonald's (NYSE: MCD), Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) and Kraft (NYSE: KFT). All staples stocks and that is hardly the place to be on a day when risk was being embraced.
Yes, today was a day to give risk a hug. Take coal miner Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR) for example. This stock has been taken to the woodshed recently, plunging almost 57.5% in the past three months leading up to today. I have been trading ANR off and on for several years and recently I have considered getting involved with it as a multi-month investment so I had it on my board today.
I did not pull the trigger to buy ANR for the long haul, but I traded it in the morning and while I admit this is anecdotal, this one stock that sort of gave a way this was going to be a strong day for stocks. On no specific news, ANR tacked on 9% and closed at its day high. Volume was below average and I think that is what kept me from keeping the stock beyond today, but remember this: Anyone that takes a look at ANR at $20 is going to be getting a far better price than hedge fund legend John Paulson did. We will have to wait to see if Paulson still owns ANR when the third-quarter 13F filings are released, but he did hold ANR in Q2.
Staying with the commodities theme, there was some mergers and acquisitions afoot in the oil services sector. Complete Production Services (CPX) soared more than 39% on volume that was roughly 12 times the daily average after Superior Energy (SPN) agreed to buy Texas-based Complete Production for $2.6 billion in cash and stock. Complete Production investors will receive the equivalent of $32.90 for each of their shares, a 61% premium to Friday's closing price. The deal could close by the end of this year.
That followed news that broke Sunday evening that China's Sinopec (SNP), that country's second-largest oil producer, would acquire Canada's Daylight Energy for $2.1 billion. Macroeconomic concerns and weak economic data points in the U.S. and China have been hampering oil prices lately, but Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Sanford C. Bernstein Co. have predicted a surge of oil and natural-gas takeovers following oil's recent woes, Bloomberg reported.
Even on a day like today there was some bad news for select offenders and I dare I call them the usual suspects. Shares of Sprint (S) slid almost 8% on volume of over 306 million shares. That compares with average daily trade of 68.5 million. Sprint, the third-largest U.S. provider of mobile phone services, said last week it may have to tap the capital markets to raise additional cash.
Monday's slide comes on top of 20% plunge last Friday and no shortage of analysts took the ax to their ratings on Sprint today. UBS estimated that Sprint would incur a free cash flow loss of $2.5 billion over the next two years and worried how it would pay for upcoming debts, according to Reuters. JPMorgan cut its rating on the stock to ''neutral'' from ''overweight.''
One stock with significant telecom exposure that had a fine day was Apple (AAPL), who else? Apple popped 5.14% after the company said the iPhone 4S sold more than 1 million units in seven countries in its first day of availability. That beat the previous record for an iPhone debut, which was 600,000 units when the iPhone debuted in five countries last year.
The 1 million number is for pre-orders as the new generation iPhone is scheduled to be in stores later this week and it is higher because the wildly popular smartphone was only available on AT&T's (T) network when the iPhone debuted last year. This time around, it the phone is available through T, VZ and Sprint.
I saw a couple of articles today that speculated the surge in pre-orders for the new iPhone may have had something to do with the passing of Steve Jobs. I do not know about the validity of that theory, but pat of me says there might be something to it. More importantly, some analysts are saying the company will need to sell 20 million iPhones in the current quarter to really wow investors. That would be an almost 25% increase from the year earlier quarter. If any company can post that kind of gain, it would be Apple.
Back to companies that just cannot seem to get out of their own way there is Netflix (NFLX). If you happened to be tracking the stock in the pre-market and in the first few minutes of trading today, it would have been logical to assume this was going to be the first really good day for Netflix in a while. After all, the shares were up 8% on news the plan to split the DVD-by-mail business and the streaming operation has been scuttled.
Highlighting how weak of a stock Netflix now is, all of those pre-market gains evaporated and the stock even touched a new 52-week low today. When the dust settled, Netflix had lost almost 5% on volume that was more than triple the daily average. I also happened across a piece on the Web that was critical of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, saying he was no Steve Jobs and Netflix is no Apple. That comparison probably is not fair to either gentleman or either company for the simple reason that Apple rarely, if ever, draws the ire of its customers. That is Netflix seems to know how to do lately.
Looking at the charts, with the S&P 500 closing just under 1195, the index easily dealt with resistance at 1177 and now only has minor work to do to conquer resistance at 1200. From there, 1220 will be the next hurdle. On the downside, support areas are 1150, 1120 and 1080. It would be really nice if that last one can be avoided.
S&P 500 Chat
A 330-point for the jump for the Dow on the cusp of earnings season is not a bad way to start the week and it helped the blue-chip index deal with resistance at 11,200 and 11,400. If the Dow can take 11,500, there is plenty of room unencumbered space back to 12,000. Support is 11,000 and then 10,600. Alcoa (AA) reports after the bell Tuesday and JPM reports before the bell Wednesday.
The Nasdaq took out resistance at 2500 with authority and is now just 34 points away from conquering the all-important 2600 area. Support is 2510. Google (GOOG) gets the Nasdaq's earnings season rolling on Thursday.
As I see it, the problem that is the Euro zone remains the same. Yes, today's news was obviously uplifting for riskier assets, but the mess that Greece, Italy, Spain and others are has been a dominant theme for almost two years now. It is going to take much more than a couple of week's of less bad news to render it moot point. What I find disconcerting is how much stocks jumped on good news out of Europe today. That makes me feel like riskier assets could fall harder and faster should more bad news emerge.