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Markets Start Strong, then Fade

Originally published: 04.01.14 by Margot Crabtree

Wall Street strode ahead to start our session with positive economic indicators, but as our trading session ended March 14, 2014, geopolitical tensions teamed with weakness in the Chinese economy to unsettle investors. The Conference Board said that its index of leading economic indicators moved upward at a modest pace in January, pointing to an expanding economy in the first half of 2014. Consumer confidence and manufacturing dropped sharply in February, but the Commerce Department reported that new home purchases grew by 9.6 percent in January, the strongest pace since July 2008.

To begin March, jobs news fooled those who thought that bad weather in January would keep employment numbers low. The Labor Department reported that employers added 175,000 jobs in February, up from 129,000 created the month before. Economists polled by FactSet expected 145,000 jobs. Both December and January jobs numbers were revised upward by 25,000 combined. The unemployment rate was steady at 6.6 percent. Saber-rattling ended the session despite more positive news in the fourth quarter gross domestic product (GDP) numbers and tame inflation rates.

A services industry report showed that fourth quarter GDP might be moved upward. JPMorgan and the firm Macroeconomic Advisers said that their quarterly survey indicates a much stronger rate of consumer spending — at a rate of 3.4 percent — than the government’s pace of 2.6 percent. Political unrest in Crimea pressured markets at the session’s end. “It

was a little bit of an excuse to take some money off the table,” said Ron Florance, deputy chief investment officer at Wells Fargo Private Bank. “We have geopolitical uncertainty, so [it’s] a good excuse to re-evaluate your risk exposure. It’s going to be par for the course for this year.”

The HVACR Business Stock Index slid 31.18 points, or 2.41 percent, to close at 1260.69. Declining issues outpaced advancing issues by a 20-to-11 count. 

Dover continued its tumble from last month, and lost 6.26 points, or 7.27 percent. Dover completed the spin-off of specialty components unit Knowles Corp. Under the terms of the split, Dover shareholders received one share of Knowles Corp. stock for every two shares of Dover stock they held. The change was concluded February 28, 2014. Dover closed at 79.80, and was the top dollar loser. 

Omega Flex rose 2.60 points, or 12.84 percent, following release of its fourth quarter results. Omega Flex reported net income of $3.2 million, or $0.32 per share, compared to net income of $774,000, or $0.08 per share, last year. Sales rose to $21.9 million, from last year’s $18.4 million. Omega Flex ended at 22.85, and was the top percentage gainer.

Shares of Hudson fell after swinging to a loss for the period ended December 31, 2013. For the fourth quarter, HDSN reported a net loss of $1.5 million, or $0.06 per share, versus net income of $3 million, or $0.12 per share, in the year-ago period. Revenues dropped slightly, to $4.8 million from $4.9 million last year. Zacks Equity Research cut its rating on Hudson to “underperform” from “neutral,” with a $3 price target. Hudson slipped 0.55 points, or 16.82 percent, and was the top percentage loser. Hudson closed at 2.72.


 Margot Crabtree is president of Trade Trends, Inc., a financial data services provider. She has been offering market analysis with customized stock indices and financial commentaries since 1999. For additional information, visit www.tradetrendsonline.com.


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