Markets had another slow day, as most major benchmarks straddled the break-even line for the session. The Dow fell by 45.5 points while the S&P 500 lost a meager 0.2%, leading to a second straight down day for markets. Though losses over the past few days have been relatively mild, investors are looking for Wall Street to continue their bullish ways, so a losing week could put a major dent in those efforts. For the time being, the economic recovery seems to have gotten a fair amount of momentum, as we are nearing pre-recession levels for a number of major assets and indexes. Already, the Nasdaq has surpassed its former levels, as it hit its historic high only recently; that index posted a 1.2 point jump for the day [see also ETF Insider: No Rest For The Bulls].
The commodity side of the equation saw gold jump by 3.5 points and oil finish just below $107, as crude fails to establish any real trend now that it has surpassed the triple digit mark. Investors will be paying close attention to tomorrow’s unemployment claims as well as Friday’s new home sales to shed light on how the economy will behave over the coming weeks. For now, we outline two of the most notable ETF performances on the day to keep investors informed on the wide world of investing [see also Crude Oil Guide: Brent Vs. WTI, What’s The Difference?].
One of the biggest ETF winners on the day came from the United States Natural Gas Fund LP (UNG), which jumped 0.7% ahead of tomorrow’s EIA storage report, which comments on the usage of natural gas over the prior week. Although analysts are expecting stockpiles to rise by 0.4% tomorrow, UNG still managed to end the day with gains. But that could set the stage for a dismal trading day tomorrow, as traders tend to react violently to the storage figures. Today’s gains don’t even put a dent in UNG’s horrible year; the fund is still down nearly 29% [see also 25 Ways To Invest In Natural Gas].
UNG Intraday Performance Chart 3/21/2012
One of the biggest ETF losers, for the second consecutive day, was the S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (VXX), which lost nearly 5% on the day, making for its two day performance to accumulate to a loss nearing 10%. VIX futures took another dive today despite equities struggling to find their footing. With a flat trading day, volatility usually sinks, meaning VXX will also endure a rough session. The sell-off in the fund was quite remarkable, as the ETF traded over 56 million shares; that’s almost 20 million more than average. Today’s losses finally bring VXX down approximately 50% on the year as this ETF has had no luck thus far in 2012 .
VXX Intraday Performance Chart 3/21/2012
Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.