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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

WALL STREET : Stock losses stemmed by rallying oil shares

WALL STREET : Walmart Drags DJIA Into The Red; S&P 500, Nasdaq Score New Highs
Stocks were hesitant to stray too far from breakeven today, as the Street spent the session digesting the latest budget proposal from the Obama administration. For fiscal 2012, the White House's $3.73 trillion blueprint features a five-year freeze on spending, and once again proposes eliminating tax breaks for both relatively wealthy citizens and the oil and gas industry. Ironically enough, though, the energy sector was among the standouts of the session, bolstered by data showing strong Chinese demand for U.S. commodities, as well as upbeat industry comments from Raymond James.

Against this backdrop, both the S&P 500 Index and Nasdaq Composite tapped new multi-year highs by the close, though a negative analyst note for Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) kept the blue chips just shy of the black.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA – 12,268.19) poked its ahead above breakeven in afternoon trading, but still finished with a loss of 5.1 points, or 0.04%. Seventeen of the Dow's 30 blue chips ended lower, led by Wal-Mart Stores' 1.6% slide, while commodities concern Exxon Mobil (XOM) paced the 12 advancing equities with a gain of more than 2.5%. Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), meanwhile, settled right where it started.
Elsewhere, the S&P 500 Index (SPX – 1,332.32) extended its lead in afternoon trading, finishing with a gain of 3.2 points, or 0.2%, to settle just shy of its new two-plus-year peak of 1,332.96. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite (COMP – 2,817.18) flirted with modest gains throughout the session, adding 7.7 points, or 0.3%, to end not far from its own three-year peak of 2,819.87.

Crude Oil Down On Higher Inventories
Crude futures finished a wishy-washy session in the red today, thanks to expectations for a continued bout of elevated inventories. According to a Dow Jones survey of analysts, the Energy Information Administration's next report – set to hit the Street on Wednesday – is widely expected to show domestic crude stockpiles rose by 1.2 million barrels last week. Earlier in the session, crude futures ticked higher after data showed China upped its U.S. commodity imports last month. By the close, March-dated crude oil futures fell 77 cents, or 0.9%, to end at a two-month low of $84.81 per barrel.

Positive China Trade Data Lift Gold Futures
Gold futures, meanwhile, finished slightly higher today, thanks to the aforementioned import data from China. However, the dollar-denominated commodity's upward momentum was limited by a strengthening greenback, which kept some foreign-currency holders on the sidelines. Against this backdrop, gold for April delivery added $4.70, or 0.4%, to settle at $1,365.10 an ounce. Elsewhere in the metals markets, copper futures ended at a record high of $4.63 a pound, after the Chinese trade data revealed an unexpectedly robust increase in copper imports.

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