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Stock Market News for August 26, 2013

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Benchmarks eked out gains during Friday’s trading session even as new home sales data plunged, adding skepticism over tapering of the bond purchase program. Meanwhile, the technical glitch which led to the malfunctioning of the Nasdaq on Thursday was fixed. All the top ten S&P 500 industry groups finished in the green, of which utilities stocks gained the most.

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 0.3% to close the day at 15,010.51. The S&P 500 added 0.4% to finish Friday’s trading session at 1,663.5. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 0.5% to end at 3,657.792. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) declined 5.3% to settle at 13.98. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were roughly 4.9 billion shares, well below 2013’s average of 6.3 billion shares. Advancing stocks outnumbered the decliners. For 68% shares that advanced, 30% declined.

Benchmarks were led by gains from Microsoft during Friday’s trading session. Shares of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) gained 7.3% after the head of the company, Steve Ballmer, disclosed he was retiring in 12 months. The Dow posted its third consecutive weekly loss. However, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq chalked up gains, breaking the two-week losing streak.

In the absence of any major catalysts, trading volumes remained light on Friday. Investors are now focusing on the Federal Reserve meeting which is due to take place in September. The recent Fed meeting did not provide any clarity to investors. Policymakers had different takes on when to taper the $85 billion bond purchase program. A few of them were of the view that tapering should begin next month, while the remaining want to wait for a further improvement in economic indicators.  

President of the St. Louis Fed, James Bullard said to CNBC: “Inflation is running low, you've got mixed data on the economy, so I'd be cautious and I wouldn't want to pre-judge the meeting”. Additionally, Atlanta Fed president, Dennis Lockhart also indicated that any tapering of the bond purchase program would take place slowly, over a longer period of time.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, sales of single homes sharply reduced to 394,000. This is 13.4% below the revised June figure of 455,000. This is also 19.6% below the consensus estimate of 455,000. Due to the sharp fall in single homes, homebuilder stocks were mostly affected. Stocks such as PulteGroup, Inc. (NYSE:PHM), The Ryland Group, Inc. (NYSE:RYL), M.D.C. Holdings, Inc.(NYSE:MDC), D.R. Horton, Inc. (NYSE:DHI) and KB Home (NYSE:KBH) lost 1.6%, 5.4%, 3.0%, 2.9% and 4.4%, respectively.

Shares of Pandora Media Inc (NYSE:P) dropped 12.9%, despite posting better than expected earnings late Thursday. Revenues of the company came in at $162 million, up 58%. Earnings came in at 4 cents, well above the Street’s expectations of 2 cents. Additionally, the company issued guidance which came in well below estimates. The company said earnings for fiscal 2014 is expected to be well below expectations since expenses of the company have shot up. High expenses are attributable to purchase of music rights and increase in its sales force.   

The utilities sector gained the most among the top ten S&P 500 industry groups. The Utilities SPDR (XLU) gained 0.83%. Stocks such as Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. (NYSE:PEG), American Electric Power Company Inc (NYSE:AEP), Pinnacle West Capital Corporation (NYSE:PNW), Wisconsin Energy Corporation (NYSE:WEC) and Consolidated Edison, Inc. (NYSE:ED) gained 0.8%, 1.1%, 0.8%, 1.0% and 1.0%, respectively.

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