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Benchmarks were finally able to close in the green yesterday, helped by some encouraging corporate numbers. Gains from pharma major Pfizer also helped benchmarks notch up a rare win, which came a day after benchmarks had suffered their biggest losses since last June. Discretionary stocks led the gains for the S&P 500’s industry groups.

For a look at the issues currently facing the markets, make sure to read today’s Ahead of Wall Street article
 
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) gained 0.5% to move to 15,445.24. The Standard & Poor 500 (S&P 500) jumped 0.8% and finished yesterday’s trading session at 1,755.20. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index ended Tuesday’s session at 4,031.52, after gaining 0.9%. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) dropped 10.9% to settle at 19.11. Volumes were high yesterday, as roughly 7.41 billion shares changed hands on the US exchanges as against January’s average of 6.94 billion. For about 2 stocks that gained on the New York Stock Exchange, 1 stock closed in the red.
 
Volumes were high yesterday, but there were hardly any economic releases of note. It was earnings results from Michael Kors Holdings Limited (NYSE:KORS) and Yum! Brands, Inc. (NYSE:YUM) that largely drove markets higher. Separately, Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) led the gains in the S&P 500 after it was upgraded to a “buy” rating. Pfizer’s shares were up 2.8% yesterday.
 
Popular apparel and accessories specialty retailer Michael Kors reported earnings of $1.11 a share, significantly beating estimates of 86 cents. Also, the company reported a 60% year-on-year jump in revenues. Shares of Michael Kors soared 17.3% yesterday following the earnings release.
 
Yum! Brands too had positive numbers to share as its adjusted earnings of 86 cents per beat Street estimates by about 7.5%. Company’s optimistic view going forward also cheered the mood. Management expects business to pick up speed from 2014 driven by its new sales-driven initiatives. The company expects to achieve 20% earnings growth in this period. Yum! Brands’ shares rose almost 9%, helping benchmarks move higher.
 
On the other hand, a 2% rise in J. C. Penney Company, Inc.’s (NYSE:JCP) fourth-quarter same-store sales disappointed investors. Retail stocks slumped 10.6% following the sales report.
 
Nonetheless, consumer discretionary sector emerged the leading gainer and the Consumer Discrete Select Sector SPDR (XLY) rose 1.2%. Key stocks in this sector such as Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA), The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) and Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX) gained 0.5%, 1.4%, 1.5% and 2.4%, respectively.
 
Yesterday’s gains came after the benchmarks were routed on Monday. Weaker-than-expected domestic manufacturing data had hammered benchmarks on Monday and the markets witnessed their worst selloff in many months. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) slumped 326 points, the first time since Dec 28, 2012 that the Dow closed below its 200-day moving average. It was also the blue-chip index’s seventh triple-digit loss for the year.
 
Markets have generally traded lower through this year and yesterday’s gain was a much needed breather. For January, the blue-chip index plunged 5.3%, S&P 500 was down 3.6% and Nasdaq ended the month with 1.7% decline. This was the blue-chip index’ worst start since 2009. The S&P 500’s monthly decline was the worst start to a year since 2010.

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