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Thursday, 16 February 2012 | 00:17
DJ30 PointChange: -97.33 Level: 12780.95 NASDAQ PointChange: -16.00 Level: 2915.83 NQ100 PercentChange: -0.8 R2K PercentChange: -0.8 SP400 PercentChange: -0.3 SP500 PointChange: -7.27 Level: 1343.23 NASDAQ-Adv:940 Dec: 1595 NYSE-Adv:1276 Dec: 1736

[BRIEFING.COM] Stocks settled with sizable losses near session lows following a mid-session swoon.

The tone ahead of the open was actually positive. Premarket participants were encouraged by news that China intends to expand its investment in Europe, although enthusiasm was tempered by a negative response to headlines that eurozone officials may wait to doll out bailout funds to Greece due to doubts about sincerity of the flagging country's commitment to new austerity measures which were approved by its parliament this past weekend.

The first half of the session was mostly mixed with the S&P 500 chopping along with a modest gain, the Dow down because of lackluster action among blue chips, and the Nasdaq sporting an enviable gain with help from tech stocks.

Apple (AAPL 497.67, -11.79) was also a source of support for the Nasdaq. However, a sudden and concerted shift in sentiment sent the stock sliding from an all-time high above $525, which reflected a climb of more than 25% since it reported earnings less than one month ago, into the red on strong volume. Given the stock's size and influence -- it is the single greatest stock by market cap -- it weighed heavily on broad market action and prompted many participants to slap on sell orders. The retreat took the major equity averages into the red. None could recover.

Upside earnings surprises from Comcast (CMCSA 28.52, +1.27) and Teva Pharma (TEVA 45.04, +1.52) helped their shares maintain impressive gains in the face of the sell-off. Despite better-than-expected results of its own, Deere & Co. (DE 84.28, -4.77) shares dropped sharply to a new monthly low. Strikingly, Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF 48.30, +3.71) shares surged to a new two-month high after the apparel retailer unveiled earnings that came short of the consensus. Encouraging commentary from company management was credited for restoring confidence in the stock.

Economic data wasn't altogether exciting. The Empire Manufacturing Survey hit 19.5 in February, up from 13.5 in the prior month. It also exceeded the reading of 14.0 that had been widely anticipated.

Industrial production for January proved disappointing. Data showed no change, which contrasts with the 0.6% increase that had been broadly expected to follow a 1.0% increase in the prior month.

The Housing Market Index impressed some participants by stretching to 29 in February from 25 in the prior month. Many thought that it would improve to just 26.

Minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting failed to induce any meaningful broad market action. However, Regional Fed President Lacker dissented in regard to the description of the time period over which economic conditions were likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate, which stands at 0.00% to 0.25%, because he expects a tightening of monetary policy to prevent inflation projections or expectations prior to the end of 2014.

The dollar didn't see a great deal of action today. Instead, it generally held near the flat line, which is right about where it was by session's end. That said, the euro shed about 0.5% against the greenback to trade at $1.31. Concerns about Greece appeared to overshadow some eurozone GDP data that was generally better than what many had predicted. The headline numbers for fourth quarter GDP featured a 0.3% decline for the eurozone, a 0.2% decline in Germany, and a 0.2% increase in France. Just the other day analysts at Moody's announced they had assigned a negative outlook to France's credit rating.

Although it appeared that the risk trade was turned off, oil prices finished pit trade at $101.78 per barrel for a 1.0% gain. Buying interest was bolstered by concerns about Iran's armament efforts and possible plans by the country to cut its exports.

Advancing Sectors: (None)
Unchanged: Materials
Declining Sectors: Health Care -0.2%, Consumer Staples -0.2%, Energy -0.3%, Consumer Discretionary -0.5%, Telecom -0.5%, Financials -0.6%, Utilities -0.6%, Tech -0.6%, Industrials -1.4%

Source: Briefing

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