February was a good month for stocks

But the major indexes are still lower on the year. Leaders include Home Depot leads the Dow, Airgas on the S&P 500 and Baidu among Nasdaq-100.

By Charley Blaine Feb 26, 2010 4:41PM
Charley BlaineUpdated: 10 p.m. ET

Here's what we know about February.

It wasn't a bad month, if the performances of the major indexes are any indication. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU) finished with a 2.6% gain, recouping more than half of January's 3.5% loss.
The Nasdaq Composite Index ($COMPX) was looking at a 4.2% gain, compared with January's 5.4% loss, and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX) was up 2.9% after falling 3.7% in January.

But the market is still down for the year, with the Dow and S&P 500 down 1% and the Nasdaq off 1.4%.

In the last 12 months, stocks have had just two monthly declines. That winning percentage is unlikely to be sustained over the next 12 months in part because the enormous 2009 rally began in March.

At the same time, the economic recovery that began last summer is looking more tentative. Unemployment is stubbornly high, with people who lose jobs likely to stay unemployed for upwards of a year, something not seen since the 1930s.

The housing market is struggling with foreclosures because of the housing bust.

As a result, stock prices look like they will be range-bound for much of the year. The top side of the range looks like 1,110 on the S&P 500 and 10,600 on the Dow.

A significant resistance point has formed around the simple 50-day moving average of the S&P 500, which is just under 1,109.

Watch this carefully. The past is not a perfect indicator of the future, but it does suggest that every time a rally pushes the S&P 500 to 1,109 -- it can even move over it -- you're likely to see a quick bout of selling.

What can cause a breakout is a catalyst that suggests the economy is beginning to grow rapidly.

What pushed the market higher in February were airline, bank, biotech, gold and chip stocks. The drags were relatively few: telecom, health care, oil and utility stocks.

The gains came as interest rates were mostly lower as the market realized the Federal Reserve was serious when it said interest rates were likely to stay lower for an extended period.

But commodity prices were fairly strong. Gold was up 3% to $1,118.30. Copper added 7.1% to $3.269 a pound. Corn was down 8.8% because global stocks are quite large.

Crude oil jumped 9.1%. That hasn't yet been seen in gasoline prices, which were up only 1.4% on the month (but 3% nationally in the last week.)

Twenty-three of the 30 Dow stocks were headed to gains, along with 78 of the stocks in the Nasdaq-100 Index ($NDX.X) and some 380 S&P 500 stocks.

Winners and losers among the Dow stocks
Company

Fri. close

Month chg.

YTD chg.
Winners








Home Depot

$31.20

11.39%

7.85%
Bank of America 

$16.66

9.75%

10.62%
Caterpillar

$57.05

9.21%

0.11%
Cisco Systems

$24.33

8.28%

1.63%
Hewlett-Packard

$50.79

7.90%

-1.40%
Losers








Verizon 

$28.93

-1.67%

-12.68%
AT&T

$24.81

-2.17%

-11.49%
Coca-Cola

$52.72

-2.82%

-7.51%
Merck

$36.88

-3.40%

0.93%
Pfizer

$17.55

-5.95%

-3.52%

The Nasdaq-100 Index ($NDX.X) finished up 4.5% for the month but is down 2.2% for the year. Baidu.com (BIDU), the Chinese Internet search company, was the leader, up nearly 26%. That is due, in part, because of uncertainty about Google's (GOOG) status in China.

Google was off 0.6% for the month and is down 15% on the year.

Nasdaq-100 winners and losers in February
Company

Fri. close

Month chg.

YTD chg.
Winners








Baidu

$518.68

25.98%

26.13%
Liberty Media 

$12.59

21.29%

16.14%
Seagate Technology  

$19.91

19.15%

9.46%
Millicom Int. Cellular  

$84.74

18.82%

14.87%
Broadcom

$31.32

17.22%

-0.48%
Autodesk

$27.88

17.19%

9.72%
J.B. Hunt Transport

$35.48

15.72%

9.95%
Altera 

$24.43

14.59%

7.95%
Express Scripts

$96.01

14.49%

11.10%
Hologic

$17.25

14.47%

18.97%
Losers








Symantec 

$16.55

-2.36%

-7.49%
Amgen

$56.61

-3.20%

0.07%
Amazon.com

$118.40

-5.59%

-11.98%
C.H. Robinson 

$53.33

-5.83%

-9.19%
Qualcomm

$36.68

-6.40%

-20.70%
First Solar

$105.75

-6.66%

-21.90%
Logitech Intl.

$15.58

-6.93%

-8.94%
FLIR Systems

$26.81

-9.36%

-18.09%
Pharmaceutical 

$21.06

-9.85%

-10.15%
Product Development







Foster Wheeler

$24.63

-11.97%

-16.34%

The winners among S&P 500 stocks were a diverse group including industrial and  energy stocks. Plus a number of takeover targets, including Millipore (MIL), Smith International (SII) and Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE). Coca-Cola (KO) wants to buy back its U.S. bottling operations for $12 billion.

Losers included FirstEnergy (FE), GameStop (GME) and H&R Block (HRB). The last took a big hit after announcing that the same-store sales of tax preparations were down this year because of the recession.

S&P 500 winners and losers in February
Company

Fri. close

Month chg.

YTD chg.
Winners








Airgas 

$64.14

51.77%

38.68%
Cliffs Natural Resources
$56.40

41.18%

28.01%
Millipore 

$94.41

36.89%

38.63%
JDS Uniphase

$10.75

36.77%

45.47%
Smith International

$40.99

35.19%

50.81%
Lexmark International
$33.71

30.71%

33.93%
Whole Foods Market

$35.49

30.38%

38.36%
Office Depot

$7.22

27.11%

17.59%
Coca-Cola Enterprises

$25.55

26.55%

30.03%
Cummins

$56.78

25.73%

26.46%
Losers

 





MasterCard

$224.37

-10.22%

-6.85%
Boston Scientific

$7.74

-10.31%

-7.53%
Monster Worldwide

$13.95

-10.52%

-4.52%
Dun & Bradstreet

$70.16

-11.16%

-10.73%
FirstEnergy

$38.65

-11.39%

-10.28%
GameStop

$17.20

-13.00%

-29.54%
Western Union

$15.78

-14.89%

-14.47%
New York Times

$10.95

-15.25%

29.74%
Dean Foods

$14.59

-17.24%

-8.24%
H & R Block

$17.28

-19.70%

-14.88%

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