Dow Watch: Tumbleweeds and Tourists

(At 4:30 p.m. EDT)

The Dow halved its gains, but still managed to finish higher on the day. As I said in an earlier update, a 100-point gain on the blue chip index would be a surprise, considering the fact that the government will post its nonfarm payrolls report Thursday.

As Friday is a market holiday, it'll be worth keeping an eye on volume Thursday, considering everyone will be rushing out the door for the beach. Volume has petered out as the short week has crawled along. At 3 p.m. EDT today, volume was about 13% lower than it was on Tuesday. At this rate, tumbleweeds and tourists will be all that remain on Wall Street at 3 p.m. EDT tomorrow.

Only six Dow stocks finished in the red Wednesday, lead by a decline in financial stocks like American Express ( AXP), Bank of America ( BAC) and JPMorgan Chase ( JPM). As mentioned earlier, Pfizer ( PFE) was another laggard.

On the positive side, Kraft ( KFT) and Intel ( INTC) were the top performers, adding 5% and 3%, respectively. (At 1:50 p.m. EDT)

New month, new quarter, new half, new optimism.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the first half of the year lower by more than 300 points, or 3.7%, but it's been nothing but green so far in the second half of 2009.

Sure, we haven't even finished the first trading session of July yet, but the Dow is up more than 100 points. If you're a bull, you'll take the victories where you can get them.

Here's the problem: according to Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist with Banyan Partners, volume is trending lower as the week has dragged on. It's great to see optimism to start the second half of 2009, but the move could be an exaggerated one considering the volume of shares trading.

Either way, Kraft ( KFT) and Intel ( INTC) were the leaders on the Dow, up 5.5% and 4%, respectively. Sadly, that reminds me of my four years in a college dorm room: macaroni and cheese and computers.

Kraft was benefiting from the latest earnings report from General Mills ( GIS), which beat analysts expectations for the quarter. General Mills also offered guidance for 2010 that was well ahead of forecasts.

Intel, meanwhile, traded higher after Morgan Stanley raised estimates for the chipmaker, saying that expectations of higher revenue and gross margins led to the increase in numbers.

On the downside, Pfizer ( PFE) was trading 1.2% lower after the Food and Drug Administration said it will require the drugmaker's smoking-cessation drug Chantix to carry the agency's strongest safety warning over side effects including depression and suicidal thoughts.

There are only a couple hours left in the trading day, so it remains to be seen if this optimism will hold up in the face of the government's jobs report, due out at 8:30 a.m. EDT tomorrow.

It's hard to imagine traders want to make a stand before such a big economic report, especially considering today's ADP ( ADP) employment report came in worse than expected.

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