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U.S. stocks again had a solid session as positive economic data pushed equities higher across the board. Durable goods orders handily beat the consensus when including transportation as the figure rose 1.1% month-over-month. Meanwhile, housing continued to show signs of strength as pending home sales handily beat even the top range of the consensus, rising by 5.9% in month-over-month terms.
Thanks to these factors, the Dow added about 0.7% while the Nasdaq put up a similar number and the S&P 500 gained 0.9% to lead the major indexes in Wednesday trading. Top gainers were in the financial segment while basic materials also surged on the decidedly positive session.
The U.S. dollar saw some strength during the session finishing just below the $82.60 mark led by strength against the euro and the pound. Meanwhile, T-Bills were mostly flat as the 10-year remained at the 1.63% yield level, while both shorter and longer term securities were unchanged as well (read Beyond The PIIGS, 3 Troubled European ETFs to Watch).
Commodities, on the other hand, did continue to add on the day, led by strength in crude and livestock. Softs were mixed, but products like sugar and cocoa did add several percentage points on the day to keep their strong performances over the past few weeks intact.
ETF trading saw light volume once again pretty much across the board in Wednesday’s session. Most of the major products saw volume that was not only lower, but almost half of the daily average, although we still did see solid volume levels in a number of international ETFs, sector products, and a few specialized commodity funds as well.
In particular, investors saw an outsized level of interest in the health care sector once again, this time concentrated in the iShares Dow Jones US Medical Devices ETF (IHI - ETF report). This product usually trades about 55,000 shares in a day but spiked to just over 118,000 shares during Wednesday’s session (see Health Care ETFs & the Fate of Obamacare).
The majority of the trading came thanks to a block trade in the early hours, while light trading was seen throughout the rest of the session. Still, the product jumped higher by about 1.5% as speculation continues to build over the Supreme Court health care decision on Thursday. Apparently some investors believe that the ruling could be favorable to the industry, although it is still quite uncertain how the court will rule in the landmark case.
Another product which was in focus was the United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG - ETF report). This popular ETF which tracks the price of natural gas saw more than 26 million shares change hands, well above the 10.8 million average for the product (see Have The Natural Gas ETFs Finally Bottomed Out?).
Despite the boost in volume, much of which was at the beginning of the session, UNG slumped, falling by about 0.8% on the day. Nevertheless, the product is still up over 8.6% in the past week and many traders are probably looking for a similarly bullish storage report tomorrow like what we saw last Thursday from the IEA.
(see more in the Zacks ETF Center)