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Stock Market News for August 23, 2013

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Upbeat manufacturing numbers from China and the Euro Zone pushed benchmarks into positive territory on Thursday. Trading was stopped for more than three hours on the Nasdaq due to a technical problem. Shares of Nasdaq OMX dropped sharply after the trading halt. On the other hand, the blue-chip index ended a six-day losing streak. Meanwhile, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits increased in the previous week. All ten sectors of the S&P 500 industry groups finished in the green with energy stocks leading the pack.

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 close the day at 14,963.74. The S&P 500 added 1.0% to finish yesterday’s trading session at 1,656.96. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 1.1% to end at 3,638.707. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) declined 7.4% to settle at 14.76. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were roughly 4.23 billion shares, well below 2013’s average of 6.3 billion shares. Advancing stocks outnumbered the decliners. For 79% shares that advanced, only 19% declined.

After a three-hour trading halt, trading on the Nasdaq finally resumed at 3:25 p.m. EDT. Nasdaq said it stopped trading yesterday following a "connectivity issue between an exchange participant" and a system that circulates all stock prices of companies.  

On the home front, the U.S. Department of Labor reported initial claims numbers. According to the report, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits jumped 13,000 to 336,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 323,000.  This was above the consensus estimate of 330,000. The four-week moving average declined 2,250 to 330,500 from the prior week’s revised figure of 332,750. What is more encouraging is that the four week moving average declined for the sixth consecutive week, its lowest level in more than five years.

On the international front, the Street received encouraging news from China and Euro Zone. According to HSBC, manufacturing activity in China touched a four-month high in the month of August. The preliminary HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index climbed to 50.1 from July’s final reading 47.7. Improvement in the manufacturing sector was boosted by a rebound in new orders. Joint head of Asian economic research at HSBC Qu Hongbin said: “China's manufacturing growth has started to stabilize on the back of modest improvements in new business and output. This is mainly driven by the initial filtering through of recent fine-tuning measures and companies' restocking activities.”     

According to financial data firm Markit, business activity in Euro Zone increased more than expectations. Markit's preliminary Purchasing Managers' Index increased to 51.7 from the previous month’s figure of 50.5, the highest reading in more than two years. The increase in business activity in Euro Zone was driven by Germany, which grew at its fastest pace in seven months.

On the earnings front, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE:ANF) reported quarterly results. The company’s earnings and revenues came in well below the Street’s estimates. The retailer’s earnings declined 33% due to weak sales. The company has also slashed its earnings outlook for the coming quarter. Abercrombie expects earnings per share in the range of $0.40 to $0.45 for the third quarter, well below expectations of $1.06. Shares took a beating after the announcement of quarterly results and tumbled nearly 18%.

The energy sector was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 industry groups and the Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) gained 1.5%. Stocks such as Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX), Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM), Hess Corp. (NYSE:HES), Murphy Oil Corporation (NYSE:MUR) and ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) added 0.5%, 0.7%, 2.0%, 1.1% and 1.0%, respectively.  


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