Jobless Claims Spike After Hurricane Sandy

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US stock futures point to a slightly lower open Thursday following some downbeat data this morning. Hurricane Sandy is being blamed for a 78,000 claim spike in the weekly jobless claims number. Wal-Mart (WMT) is also trading almost 3% lower pre-market after reporting lower than expected revenue numbers in its third quarter earnings results. Yesterday we saw another sharp sell-off in the indices amid worries about escalating conflicts in the Middle East and the fiscal cliff.

Yesterday, in his first press conference since being re-elected, President Barack Obama opened the floor to new revenue raising ideas, but stood pat on his demand that there will be higher taxes for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. The market did not seem to like his comments, selling off in the wake of the press conference. Stocks also headed lower following the Fed minutes from its latest meeting, in which FOMC governors warned of a slow recovery.

Traders will be watching Facebook (FB) again today after yesterday 12.5% spike. Eight hundred million shares (35% of the float) entered the open market for FB yesterday, and many speculators posited that the wave of new supply would weigh on the stock. However, the stock bounced hard immediately off the open, squeezing the shorts all the way into the close. In the pre-market this morning, FB is not giving back any of those gains and is slightly higher. It will be interesting to watch how well FB holds up in the coming days.

Although the chart is largely broken, traders will also be watching Apple (AAPL). The stock showed a positive technical divergence to the market yesterday by holding above its recent pivot low, while the indices all broke down through recent ranges. The level to watch on AAPL is $533.72.

Also watch oil today as tension in the Middle East flare. Yesterday crude jumped over 1% on reports of Israel airstrikes in the Gaza strip, with reports indicating there will be more attacks in the coming days. The United States Oil Fund ETF (USO) is set for a slightly higher open this morning.

Volume and volatility could begin to dry up as we head into options expiration tomorrow and the Thanksgiving holiday next week. These are the types of environments that traders take a step back from, judging that the risk-reward is not in their favor. If you haven't taken our Free Online Trading Course yet, the next few business days might be a good time to get started.

*DISCLOSURES: Marc Sperling is long AAPL, PANW, ANTH, RIMM calls, FB calls, FB puts, VXX calls, RIMM, SRPT calls, AAPL calls, MLNX calls, FSLR calls, TLT puts, FIO calls, SHOS.

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