(Updated from 10:39 a.m. )
retail sales data out this morning sparked a bit of fire in the market's belly, and stocks bumped higher out of the gate. Tech stocks and blue-chips were ahead by nearly the same number of points in recent action.
Still, investor ranks were slim as
Federal Reserve head
testimony before the
Senate Banking Committee
kicked off shortly after 10 a.m. In his prepared remarks, Greenspan emphasized the ongoing weakness in the economy. That indicates that the Fed is likely to continue cutting rates. He said, however, that the economic weakness doesn't seem to have been as bad in January as it was in December. In any case, the key part to watch will likely be the Q-and-A session with senators.
retail sales number showed that sales picked up quite a bit in January -- and more than economists had expected. The headline number rose 0.7% during the month, compared with forecasts for 0.6% growth and December's 0.1% increase in sales. The core number, which excludes volatile auto sales, rose 0.8%, double the 0.4% rise expected by economists and well above December's flat performance.
BTM-UBSW Weekly Chain Store Sales Index
for the week ending Feb. 10 showed 0.8% growth in sales, compared with a 0.1% drop the previous week. These retail sales numbers could indicate a rebound in consumer confidence in January, or they might not. While the December and January numbers might seem to indicate a real rebound in consumer spending -- retail sales had dropped 0.1% and 0.5% in October and November -- some are concerned that the winter strength is due more to sharp discounts and decent weather rather than any fundamental change in shopping behavior.
Some think the Nasdaq has hit a near-term bottom -- again -- in the past few weeks. A good sign is the rise in chip stocks this morning. Despite a
Credit Suisse First Boston
Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index
was up 3.1%. The sector began to rebound yesterday after a weeklong selloff.
Meanwhile, Broadcom and Intel, which were up briefly, had lately turned down by 0.2% and 0.7%, respectively. Texas Instruments was up 1.5%.
Of course the CSFB downgrade is after the fact, but it was pressuring Intel and Broadcom in preopen trading this morning.
Just last week, CSFB issued a dire note about the semiconductor industry after new data from the
Semiconductor Industry Association
showed that chip sales were falling. CSFB said then that inventory levels had worsened in recent months and could likely take until the end of second quarter to burn off.
But today, CSFB said it has
visibility worries. That may mean it's no longer so sure about its previous forecast. Tech company after tech company -- and the analysts that watch them -- have lately begun to voice concerns about visibility, or companies' ability to project future performance. It's not an easy thing to do when the economic picture is so murky and the Fed's future interest-rate moves unknown.
continued to cast a spell over tech investors this morning. This one not-so-little stock has been among the most actively traded on the Nasdaq for the past five days in a row. Last Tuesday, the company warned of slowing sales in its future, and investors sold it off through Friday. Yesterday, it began to rebound. Cisco was lately up 2.1%.
The Dow continued to court the psychologically key 11,000 watermark, but less aggressively than yesterday, when it rose 165 points to close at 10,947. Today it was getting most of its lift from tech giant
, PC maker
. Together these three were adding 39 weighted points to the index.
The biggest losers were consumer products giants
Johnson & Johnson
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Green swathed tech pretty much everywhere this morning, with gains in Internet, networking, biotech, telecom, PC makers and chip stocks. The SOX was storming 3% higher, while the
Morgan Stanley High Tech Index
was jumping 2.5%.
Financials were mixed, again, with brokerages up and banks down, while retailers were selling out of Monday's robust rally.
Defensives such as drugs were down, while tobacco stocks continued to ride their unstoppable tidal wave. The
American Stock Exchange Pharmaceutical Index
was down 1%, while the
American Stock Exchange Tobacco Index
was up 1.9%.
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The benchmark 10-year
Treasury note was rising 5/32 this morning, to 99 23/32, yielding 5.038%.
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