Abby Joseph Cohen, OPEC and Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Report. For a day without much news to speak of, the heavy hitters certainly were out in full force near midsession, which found most proxies on the dark side of break-even.
The immediate catalyst for the morning's (technology) selloff was provided by
strategist Abby Joseph Cohen, who recommended that clients cut their exposure to equities to 65% from 70%, putting that money into cash. Cohen's balanced aggressive portfolio now breaks down to 65% equities, 27% fixed-income, 5% cash and 3% commodities.
Cohen reiterated her 1575 year-end price target for the
, but noted that "as a consequence of relative performance, we no longer are overweight in technology or consumer staples."
Not surprisingly, tech took the biggest hits early on. The
Nasdaq Composite Index
had sunk as many as 97 points shortly after 10 a.m. before buyers started moving in.
"It's bizarre," said Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at
. "I think the Abby Cohen news was a short-term reason to sell off. But her allocation is back where it was prior to last year. It's a nonevent."
Indeed, the Comp was decently well off its lows by midsession, down 62, or 1.3%, to 4897. The broader big-cap market was faring considerably better, with the
Dow Jones Industrial Average
up 2 to 11,028 and the S&P 500 down 6 to 1517 1/2.
In general, stocks were seeing the same sort of choppy trading the market saw yesterday amid uncertainty over the outcome of this week's OPEC meeting and the Microsoft antitrust case.
Venezuelan oil minister Ali Rodriguez has said that OPEC member nations have reached "an agreement in principle" to increase oil production. Though no details about the size of the production hikes were disclosed, the price of oil was falling modestly. Crude for May delivery on the
New York Mercantile Exchange
was off 29 cents to $27.50 a barrel.
Oil and oil service stocks were mixed. The
American Stock Exchange Oil & Gas Index
was up fractionally, while the
Philadelphia Stock Exchange Oil Service Sector Index
was down 1.1%.
Airline issues were soaring amid expectations of easing crude prices and in sympathy with
, which was up 3.7% following the company's positive
preannouncement last night. The
American Stock Exchange Airline Index
was up a considerable 3.5%.
Meanwhile, any investors itching for a ruling in the Microsoft case will just have to hold their horses. As
reported earlier today, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson has agreed to delay his verdict for up to 10 days as the company continues to seek a settlement. That news helped spark a reversal in Microsoft, which was lately up 1 5/8, or 1.6%, to 105 11/16.
"As long as they're still talking, that's good news for Microsoft," said Peter Coolidge, managing director of trading at
Brean Murray Foster Securities
News remains very scarce outside of Microsoft and OPEC. Not surprisingly, trading was relatively light, and market participants found themselves looking forward.
"I just don't see any great catalysts moving this market one way or another," said Coolidge. "People talk about how we're coming into a record earnings season, but a lot of that is already in the price of stocks. Overall, a lot of the positives are already in the market."
"It looks like a market that's drifting," Coolidge continued. "We've reestablished the high end of the trading ranges for the Nasdaq and the Dow, and we're bumping up against that now."
The bond market was little changed, with the benchmark 10-year Treasury up 4 ticks to 102 13/32, putting its yield at 6.17%. The 30-year Treasury was 3/32 higher to 103 28/32 and yielding 5.97%
Banks were performing well, with the
Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index
up 0.8%. But brokerage stocks were taking a much-needed breather from their recent tear. The
American Stock Exchange Broker/Dealer Index
was down 1.3%.
Small-caps and Net stocks were taking it on the chin. The
was down 8, or 1.5%, to 565, while
TheStreet.com Internet Sector
index was slumping 26, or 2.1%, to 1235.
Breadth was negative, especially among electronically traded issues. Volume, meanwhile, was light.
New York Stock Exchange:
1,338 advancers, 1,488 decliners, 529 million shares. 45 new 52-week highs, 37 new lows.
Nasdaq Stock Market:
1,441 advancers, 2,497 decliners, 829 million shares. 44 new highs, 48 new lows.
For a look at stocks in the midsession news, see Midday Movers, published separately.