Stocks end flat; oil pulls back

The Dow gains 4, but oil drops nearly to $95 as hurricane damage to Gulf Coast energy facilities appears modest. Trading is light as investors await Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's Friday speech. Wellpoint jumps after CEO resigns.

By Charley Blaine Aug 29, 2012 1:20PM
Charley BlaineUpdated: 7:08 p.m. ET

U.S. markets finished the day with tiny gains as investors who weren't on vacation continued to wait for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to speak and for Europe to make a decision. 

The major averages were little changed at today's close. The Dow Jones industrials ($INDU) closed up 4 points to 13,107. As a further gauge of the quiet trading environment, the difference between the Dow's high and low today was just 63.5 points, the fifth-smallest gap of the year -- and well off the 2012 average of 148 points. And all of those narrow differences have occurred this month.

The lack of action came even as the government reported that the U.S. economy grew at a slightly better clip than thought in the second quarter, and the National Association of Realtors said pending home sales in July rose to their highest levels in two years.  The market did pull back after the Federal Reserve's Beige Book report suggested the economy continued to "expand gradually" in July and early August. Several areas of the country were seeing slower growth.

Crude oil
(-CL) in New York settled down 84 cents to $95.49 as reports suggested the damage to offshore oil-and-gas platforms and refineries in Louisiana isn't as bad as feared. Energy stocks were lower as well. But the national average price of gasoline was up nearly 5 cents to $3.804 a gallon from Tuesday's $3.756.

The Dow was up as much as 42 points before the Beige Book report came out. In addition to the gain for the blue chips, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX) was up 1 point to 1,410. The Nasdaq Composite Index ($COMPX) was up 4 points to 3,081. The Nasdaq-100 Index ($NDX), which tracks the biggest Nasdaq stocks, was up 1 point to 2,784. Apple (AAPL), the biggest influence on the Nasdaq-100, was down $1.33 to $673.47, 1.1% below its all-time high of $680.87.

Article continues below.
Brent crude, however, settled up 4 cents to $112.54 a barrel in London.

Meanwhile, gold (-GC) settled down $6.70 to $1,663 an ounce in New York. The dollar was higher against major currencies, particularly the euro and the Japanese yen. Interest rates were higher with the 10-year Treasury yield rising to 1.654% from Tuesday's 1.63%.

On Thursday, the government releases its weekly report on jobless claims and reports on personal income and spending. Germany reports on unemployment, and the European Union reports on eurozone business sentiment.

The big earnings reports come from Ciena (CIEN) and Zumiez (ZUMZ) and three of Canada's largest banks: Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM), National Bank of Canada (CA:NA) and the Toronto Dominion Bank (TD).

Futures trading suggests a slightly lower open on Thursday.

Pandora results cheer
After the close, shares of Pandora Media (P), the Internet-based music service, were up 82 cents, or 8.1%, to $10.90 after the company reported better-than-expected quarterly results and boosted guidance for the fiscal year.

Revenue jumped 51% to $101.3 million. The company lost 3 cents a share using generally accepted accounting, up from a loss of 4 cents a year ago.

On a non-GAAP basis, it broke even, compared with 2 cents a share a year ago. Shares closed down 10 cents to $10.08 a share in regular trading.

Energy prices -- New York close (updated)



Month chg.

YTD chg.
Crude oil (-CL)




(per barrel)

Heating oil (-HO)




(per gallon)

Natural gas (-NG)




(per mil. BTU)

Unleaded gasoline (-RB)




(per gallon)

Brent crude 




(per barrel)

Retail gasoline




(per gallon; AAA)

The market's resilience
The good news about the market grinding as it has is that the major averages remain close to the year's highs, reached in the spring. The gains since a sell-off that ended on June 4 are holding, and the market's gains for the year are solid. The Dow is up 7.5%, with the S&P 500 up 12.3% and the Nasdaq up 18.4%.

The bad news is that the highs for the year are now offering serious resistance. Computers are, apparently, set to sell any time an index nears its high.

This makes the market vulnerable to shocks. Europe. An oil price shock if Israel really does attack Iran. A failure of a major financial institution.

Is something bad about to happen? The one question that can't really be answered is what happens between Israel and Iran. That said, the strength of the resistance levels does suggest some pullbacks ahead -- but nothing really horrible.

Here's one more thought. Financial stocks are up nearly 17% this year; they fell 57% in 2008. Moreover, the S&P 500 has had just two bad months this year. In all of 2008, it had gains in just four months.

Waiting for the central bankers to move
Bernanke's speech Friday at the Fed's annual retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyo., is the immediate reason for market inaction. Europe is on hold as well. Investors are hoping the Fed chairman will offer signals on whether the Fed will start another round of so-called quantitative easing. That's the name for bond purchases designed to ensure interest rates stay low. The Fed is on record as saying it expects to keep interest rates low into late 2014.

The Fed's policy-making body, the Federal Open Market Committee, meets Sept. 12-13.

The European Central Bank is supposed to outline plans on buying distressed bonds after its Sept. 6 meeting, but that decision may wait until Sept. 12. That's when Germany's highest court is supposed to rule on whether the new European bailout fund and fiscal pact break German law. If the court says the pact isn't constitutional, financial markets would almost certainly be hit hard.

ECB President Mario Draghi, writing in the German magazine Die Zeit, suggested the ECB will be pushing for stronger coordination of fiscal and monetary policies within the eurozone -- the 17 nations that use the euro as their currency. That would be the price for the bank's buying bonds of countries like Italy, Spain and Greece.

The big worry about the coordinated fiscal requirements is that the austerity that's likely to be imposed will choke off growth for any number of years. Greece's economy has been shrinking for five straight years, and statistics suggest the eurozone now is in a recession.

Joseph A. Bank jumps; Joy Global slides
While the world waits, there is some movement in specific stocks.

Men's clothing retailer Jos. A. Bank Clothiers (JOSB) surged $5.81 to $47.44 after reporting second-quarter profit that topped analysts’ estimates as sales in its direct-marketing business climbed.

Sealed Air (SEE) gained $1.58 to $14.58. The maker of Bubble Wrap hired Dow Chemical (DOW) executive Jerome Peribere to succeed Chief Executive Officer William V. Hickey, who plans to retire next year.

Joy Global (JOY), the maker of P&H and Joy mining equipment, closed up $1.36 to $54.43. The shares had slumped early in the day to as low as $49.65 after cutting forecasts for earnings and revenue. Rival Caterpillar (CAT), the world’s largest maker of construction and mining machines, also recovered from early losses, finishing up 8 cents to $86.09.

WellPoint (WLP) increased $4.41 to $61.80. Angela Braly resigned as CEO of the the second-biggest U.S. health insurer. Braly was ousted after investors, some publicly, expressed discontent with her management. A big issue was the company's spending billions of dollars on stock buybacks that did nothing for the price itself. Over the past two weeks, Jackie Ward, WellPoint’s lead independent director, and a second board member met with shareholders to hear their concerns, Bloomberg News said.

Eighteen of the 30 Dow stocks were higher, led by Verizon Communications (VZ), Walt Disney (DIS) and McDonald's (MCD). Coca-Cola (KO) and Intel (INTC) were the laggards.

Meanwhile, 276 S&P 500 stocks were higher. Sealed Air, Wellpoint and Sears Holdings (SHLD) were the leaders. First Solar (FSLR) and U.S. Steel (X) and for-profit education company Devry (DV) were the laggards.

Fifty-seven Nasdaq-100 stocks were higher, led by Warner-Chilcott (WCRX) and Sears. Chinese Internet company Baidu (BIDU) and Research In Motion (RIMM) were the laggards.

Short hits from the markets -- New York close (Updated)



Month chg.

YTD chg.
Treasury yields

13-week Treasury bill




5-year Treasury note 




10-year Treasury note




30-year Treasury bond





U.S. Dollar Index




British pound




(in U.S. $)


U.S. $ in pounds




Euro in dollars




(in U.S. $)


U.S. $ in euros

€ 0.798

€ 0.796


U.S. $ in yen 




U.S. $ in Chinese





Canada dollar




(in U.S. $)


U.S. dollar 




(in Canadian $)






Gold (-GC)




(per troy ounce)


Copper (-HG)




(per pound)


Silver (-SI)




(per troy ounce)


Wheat (-ZW)




(per bushel)


Corn (-ZC)




(per bushel)






(per pound)






(per pound)


Crude oil (-CL)




(per barrel)


Aug 29, 2012 2:49PM
If the Government can run a trillion dollar ponzi scheme, why can't everyone? 
Aug 29, 2012 2:06PM
Listen closely and you can hear that ginding sound of the Fed. printing presses turning out the days prop money. Bernanke must be running out of oil in his oil can.
Aug 29, 2012 2:47PM
Citigroup pays a paltry $590M for a multi trillion CDO ponzi scheme they were involved in that lead to a world economic melt down. In the mean time the Office Of Thrift Supervision remains closed down, so no jail time for anyone. Obama's dirty handed buddies know if anyone went to jail the collusion would all come out in the plea bargains.
Aug 29, 2012 2:49PM
I'm headed to Tasmania, I can comfortably watch the world go to hell from there.....
Aug 29, 2012 2:09PM
We all have to wait for the squeeky voiced bald headed elf to speak on Friday.....then all will be better, right??
Aug 29, 2012 4:45PM
Seems to me that if the wind blows the wrong way oil prices jump. I feel if there are amateur speculators we will continue to have **** like this happening. There is no way in Gods eye that the oil should be undermined by these pimp oil people. All they do is create havoc for those with little or no money.
Aug 29, 2012 4:05PM
A contributor yesterday made a comment about traders who sold in the dying minutes that had me thinking .... now I agree.  He's right.  Traders are spoiling America's recovery for nickels and dimes of profit!!!
Aug 29, 2012 3:32PM

If Bernanke give the street another bailout by cheapening the value of our dollar any more the inflation rate next year will be even higher than the 5.9% that is being projected.

This administration and its flunkys are a joke.


Aug 29, 2012 2:25PM
Bad times ahead for the market confirmedt!! Cramer is cheer leading today.
Aug 29, 2012 3:26PM
tell ben to just shut his pie hole for once!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Aug 29, 2012 5:20PM

It is very sad about the black population as a whole. They were sold into slavery for thousands of years by their own tribal leaders. First to Egypt and then by the Europeans. It is fact that the leaders of one tribe would raid another tribe and then sell those captured to the slave traders at markets along the coast.

Today they are sold generation after generation into the State and Federal welfare system. They will never get ahead with out self worth. You live in the land of personal freedom. Make the right chooses and pull yourself up. The government will never make you truly free. They do not care if you get an education or a job. They just want your vote to sustain the system.

Aug 29, 2012 2:11PM
ROFLMAO..............the "rinse cycle"  is about to begin.
Aug 29, 2012 2:07PM
"GM to invest $1 billion in Russia within 5 years"

Well, then by all means the only moral thing to do is redirect the nations goals to include financial support for the "workers of the world" so that they may unite through equal ability to add indebtedness to the United States, after all, a union is a union and we should all be for helping ANY union........... right?
Aug 29, 2012 4:52PM
With all the hopes and dreams of the market waiting on one man and a speech,doesn't that kinda show who and what really runs Wall Street ??
Aug 29, 2012 1:49PM
WHOO-HOO! "Grinding out small gains"...What could be better than that? 
Aug 29, 2012 3:03PM
Arguing for or against tax breaks for the Rich seems a futile waste of time for us peons; they are big boys who can take care of themselves, thank you. Most everyone in that category (including legislators) has a price, and the resources to pay that price in green and/or favors. Save your breath little people, we are making NO difference. Their work is not so hard as it is cold and calculated.
Aug 29, 2012 9:06PM

"A man makes a $250 million fortune loading up companies with debt and then extracting million-dollar fees from those same companies, in exchange for the generous service of telling them who needs to be fired in order to finance the debt payments he saddled them with in the first place."


My same contention from Day One. Haven't we just endured the ridiculous exercise of throwing fiat money at a labor engagement problem and heard all the excuses? We don't need a business flim flam man. We need someone who unites by picking up the first shovel. Who the Hell told Wall Street and financiers that anyone could should or must make a living off money? The world is a quadrillion in the hole and has nothing but phony markets and debt notes to show for it. There cannot be a few who are rich and the rest impoverished. There won't be.

Aug 29, 2012 3:52PM
Well, at 1545 hrs manipulators called to accelerate the selling, so now we have 10 minutes to try to keep things in the green....Fricking crooks, cheat, steal and get away with it all...Oh well...We will see what happens these last few minutes.
Aug 29, 2012 6:56PM

I am waiting for you to answer my Question........  What do you propose to get JOBS FOR THE MAJORITY OF AMERICANS ON WELFARE,  78% are  KIDS, THE ELDERLY AND THE HANDICAPPED.....

Waiting for an answer!!!        
Aug 29, 2012 5:04PM
What part of me helping you with your needs is Racist..?     It has everything to do with your Brain's obvious you were denied  genetically, which crippled your ability to fend for yourself...I cannot imagine you not needing some kind of financial support....I am sure you live with parents or your kids, an institution, and using their computer and internet and really can't afford the PBR beer and teeth you want and need.. ...Post your address and we will Help.....
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[BRIEFING.COM] The stock market finished the Tuesday session on the defensive after spending the entire day in a steady retreat. The S&P 500 (-0.6%) posted its third consecutive decline, while the small-cap Russell 2000 (-0.9%) slipped behind the broader market during afternoon action.

Equity indices were pressured from the start following some overnight developments that weighed on sentiment. The market tried to overcome the early weakness, but could not stage a sustained rebound, ... More


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