Today has been a relatively mild session for stocks. There was some early excitement in oil on news that Iranian soldiers had seized an Iraqi oil field. That sent money flowing into safety trades like the U.S. dollar and U.S. bonds but the early strength in both has started to reverse. The NASDAQ is out performing thanks to big gains for ORCL and RIMM after both companies reported stronger earnings results last night.
Asian markets continued to decline. Pressuring China was news that the government was tightening rules on buying land. In an effort to cool speculation the Chinese government was raising down payment requirements to up to half the purchase price. Both the Chinese Shanghai index and the Hong Kong Hang Seng index posted their fourth declines in a row. The Shanghai lost 2.0%. The Hang Seng fell 0.8%. Meanwhile the Japanese NIKKEI lost 0.2%.
European markets also turned lower and marked their second decline in a row. Banks were the weak link as investors reacted to a report from the ECB. This morning the European Central Bank released their Financial Stability Review and inside the ECB had raised their estimates on bank write downs by 13% to 553 billion euros. Further pressuring the banks were the tougher Basel Committee regulations released this week. Bulls did get some good news from the German IFO institute, which saw its business climate index rise to 94.7 in December. Economists were expecting a rise to 94.5. The German DAX slipped 0.2%. The English FTSE fell 0.4%. The French CAC-40 gave up 0.9%.
It is surprising that crude oil isn't significantly higher on this news that Iranian forces have seized an Iraqi oil field. Crude oil futures are up about 1.2% to $73.58 a barrel. That's not a very big move. As far as the situation in Iraq, some reports are saying there are about 12 soldiers while other reports are claiming that Iran has positioned tanks around the field. Whatever the case it does seem that Iran is trying to provoke a fight. Normally rising geopolitical tensions in the Mideast mean higher oil prices. Maybe Iran just needs to bring in more oil export money so they're trying to artificially pump up the price of oil with a flash of force. Gold futures, another safety trade when Mideast tensions rise, is hovering near unchanged at $1,110 an ounce while the U.S. dollar hits new relative highs.
Currently the S&P 500 index is up 0.3% and off its lows of the session near 1094. The Dow Industrials are up about 6 points and bouncing from the bottom of its trading range near 10,263. The NASDAQ gapped open higher and traders bought the intraday dip. The tech-heavy index is up 1.1% at 2204. The small cap Russell 2000 index is up about three points at 607.
Chart of the S&P 500:
Chart of the NASDAQ:
Chart of the Dow Industrials:
Chart of the Russell 2000 index:
I am not seeing any significant moves in the OptionInvestor.com play list.