Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dell, Government Data Weigh on the Market in Light Trading

While Thursday's surprise GDP report lifted the market, earnings from Dell Thursday after the bell and government reports on Friday pulled the market lower in light trading.

On Thursday afternoon, the world's second largest computer maker, Dell (DELL), reported earnings with a lower profit than was expected. They attributed part of the miss to literally lowering prices too much thereby affecting margins. Also in the earnings report, Dell made comments that business IT spending was weak overall, and this hit the tech sector Friday.

On Friday morning, a government report showed U.S. personal income fell unexpectedly in July while spending slowed as the effects of the government stimulus package wore off. There was some good news though as consumer sentiment showed signs of improvement that was helped along by falling gasoline prices.

The Dow finished down 171.47 points (1.46%), the S&P 500 was down 17.93 points (1.38%), and the NASDAQ closed down 44.12 points (1.83%). Trading volume was very light at the NYSE with only 915 million shares versus the average of 1.90 billion shares. At the NASDAQ, about 1.56 billion shares were traded which was also below the daily average of 2.17 billion shares. As we have noted before, light trading volume usually brings somewhat exaggerated swings in the market. Volume should start to pick up over the next week or so as traders come back from vacation.

Surprisingly, oil finished the day lower even with the threat of Hurricane Gustav in the Gulf of Mexico. At the close, oil was down 13 cents to $115.46 per barrel. Some energy companies with production facilities along the coast of Texas and Louisiana had already began shutting output as Hurricane Gustav approached. Much like Thursday, oil spiked early to above $118 before settling down for the day.

On Sunday, our post will be Part 3 of the Alternative Energy series where we will be discussing wind power. From the e-mails we have received, it seems the series has hit a cord with everyone and sparked some good discussions.

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