The U.S. stock market is seeing a small bounce after a four-day losing streak. Trading remained subdued with stocks churning in a relatively tight range as investors wait for Friday morning's non-farm payroll (jobs) report. This morning the ISM services data was slightly better than expected. The market is also digesting the release of the FOMC minutes, the weekly initial jobless claims. Meanwhile the retail sector is rebounding after August same-stores sales came in better than expected.
Asian markets were mixed. Weakness in the dollar against the yen pushed the Japan market lower. The NIKKEI index lost 0.6%. Chinese stocks were bouncing after a government official offered positive comments on the health of the markets. The Hong Kong Hang Seng gained 1.2%. The Chinese Shanghai index soared 4.79%. Around the world European markets spent most of the day in positive territory only to plunge on the U.S. economic data this morning. The German DAX slipped 0.3%. The English FTSE gave up 0.4%. The French CAC-40 lost 0.5%.
On Tuesday we had the ISM manufacturing index data come in above expectations at 52.9. This morning the ISM services index also edged past economists' predictions. Analysts wee looking for a jump from 46.4 in July to 48.0 in August. The Institute for Supply Management said their services index hit 48.4 in August. Readings under 50 represent a contracting economy.
This morning we also got the minutes on the last FOMC meeting in August. The overall tone was cautious, as Federal Reserve governors remain concerned about the labor market. Speaking of labor the weekly jobless numbers showed that new claims came in at 570,000, a drop of 4,000. Economists were expecting a drop toward the 560,000 level. All eyes are on the Labor Department's non-farm payrolls (jobs) report on Friday morning. In July the jobs report showed the country lost 247,000 jobs, which was better than expected. This time economists are predicting a loss of 230,000, which would be the smallest decline in a year. Yet at the same time they're forecasting unemployment to tick up to 9.5%. Any big disappointment would spark another stock market sell-off.
Retail stocks were in the news as traders sifted through the August same-store sales data. Overall the news was good. Retail Metrics said same-store sales came in at -2.3% versus estimates for -3.4%. The International Council of Shopping Centers said their numbers showed a -2.0% drop in same-store sales versus estimates of -4.0%. The RLX retail index is up 1.2% on the news. Here's a breakdown for some of the major retailers reporting August same-store sales:
Actual vs. Estimate -- Company name (symbol)
+9.0% ... +7.1% -- Aeropostale (ARO)
+6.0% ... +4.3% -- Ross Stores (ROST)
+5.0% ... +3.9% -- TJX Cos (TJX)
+3.6% ... +4.8% -- The Buckle (BKE)
+0.2% ... -1.7% -- Kohl's (KSS)
-2.0% ... -5.7% -- Costco (COST)
-2.9% ... -5.1% -- Target (TGT)
-3.0% ... -7.0% -- The Gap (GPS)
-4.0% ... -5.9% -- The Limited (LTD)
-6.0% ... -8.0% -- BJ's Wholesale (BJ)
-7.0% ... -9.4% -- American Eagle (AEO)
-7.6% ... -9.0% -- Nordstrom's (JWN)
-7.9% ... -6.7% -- JC Penney (JCP)
-8.0% ... -3.3% -- Children's Place (PLCE)
-8.1% ... -6.9% -- Hot Topic (HOTT)
-8.1% ... -7.4% -- Macy's (M)
-11.2% ... -9.5% -- Wet Seal (WTSLA)
-12.0% ... -10.0% - Dillard's (DDS)
-12.0% ... -18.9% - Zumiez (ZUMZ)
-19.6% ... -14.1% - Saks (SKS)
-29.0% ... -23.9% - Abercrombie (ANF)
A quick glance at commodities and you'll notice that natural gas continues to plunge. Inventory data for the natural gas showed another big build up with stockpiles hitting record highs at 3.3 trillion cubic feet. This is 18% above the five-year average. Natural gas futures plunged to $2.50 per 1,000 cubic feet this morning. The good news is that a lot of power plants use natural gas and several areas of the country are going to see their heating bills drops by 10-to-20% this winter. Meanwhile oil is up fractionally. Grains continues to slip toward their 2009 lows. Copper is about 2%. Silver is up more than 3%. Gold is challenging its February 2009 highs.
Currently the S&P 500 index is up less than four points at 998. The NASDAQ Composite is up less than 8 points at 1974. The Dow Industrials are up about 26 points at 9306. The small cap Russell 2000 is up just over 2 points at 558. Stocks will probably continue sideways throughout the afternoon as we wait for the jobs number. Then Friday morning there will be a burst of volume as investors react to the jobs report. Then volumes will plummet as everyone heads home early for the long, Labor Day weekend.
Let's take a quick look at charts for the major averages:
Chart of the S&P 500:
Chart of the NASDAQ:
Chart of the Dow Industrials:
Chart of the Russell 2000 index:
Scanning the OptionInvestor.com play list for movers I actually don't see much going on with the market drifting sideways. I do see that AAPL is bouncing from the $165 level. FISV has broken down under support and hit our stop loss. FSLR, a put play, is up 1.9% and back above the $120 level.