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U.S. stocks rallied at the open today after Alcoa (AA) kicked off the earnings season with a well-received report yesterday afternoon. Shares of Alcoa rallied by as much as 0.42, or 4.45 percent, to 9.85 in the opening minutes. All three of the major indexes saw gains in the neighborhood of 1 percent during the initial wave higher.
Alcoa posted its high less than 10 minutes into the session. The stock quickly retreated back towards unchanged levels and went on to finish a penny higher at 9.44. A study of the last 34 quarters by Bespoke Investment Group showed that the benchmark S&P 500 has finished the earnings season with a gain 75 percent of the time when Alcoa rallied on the day after it reported results.
The major stock indexes reached their highs for the day 35 minutes into trading. They spent the rest of the time moving sideways to slightly lower, but still managed to finish with decent gains. The S&P 500 settled 11.38 points higher to post its best finish since July 29. You have to look back to July 26 to find a higher close for the Dow Jones Industrial Average after it rose by 69.78 points today. The Nasdaq Composite advanced by 25.94 points, or 0.97 percent.
The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 have each risen during five of the six trading days in January. Their losses came on different days, so at least one of the major indexes has finished higher during every session this year. An early year rally, which is known as the “January effect,” is often bullish for equities. Records compiled by the Stock Trader’s Almanac show that since 1950, the U.S. stock market has begun the year with five consecutive gains a total of 38 times. It ended those years with gains 87 percent of the time.
The financial airwaves are being filled by more and more investment professionals and analysts who think that the U.S. economy is improving. Most are of the opinion that as long as there are no financial disasters out of Europe and China that the U.S. stock market will have a chance to move higher.
The following quote sums up the current sentiment of many U.S.-based investment pros: “Earnings don’t have to knock the ball out of the park to push equities higher,” Jack Ablin, who helps oversee $55 billion as chief investment officer for Chicago-based Harris Private Bank, said in a telephone interview. “Expectations are low.” On the international front, “there’s a growing sense that China will ease policy and, to the extent that Europe can muddle, it’s probably net positive news.”
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