Market Focus with Tom Hudson – Tuesday, Mar 6, 2012

TOM HUDSON: And in fact so, you know, up until today it was the best
start for the Dow in a year since 1998. We hadn’t gone a streak like this
in terms of the number of days we’ve seen — not seen a triple-digit loss
since back in 2006. So lots of records being broken here tonight with the
market sell-off, and really it was across the board. So let’s get you
updated with tonight’s “Market Focus.”

Since it has been such a streak of generally up days here, it bears
repeating, the biggest stock sell-off that we’ve seen this year today, as
the major indices all down at least 1 percent. Let’s take a look at the
day, and the selling started right at the opening bell.

Here we’ve got the S&P 500 hitting its lowest level of the session
around 2:30 Eastern time, before seeing a little bit of abatement in the
selling. Now putting the pull-back though in context, looking at the index
year-to-date, this move lower has taken the S&P 500 down to its lowest
level since mid-February, erasing some of the gains this year.

Still, though, even with the loss today, the index is up almost 7
percent since the beginning of the year. After the strong gains in
February, many analysts have been expecting some kind of pull-back in the
stock market.

The 204-point loss for the Dow Industrials, meantime, erased almost
all of last month’s gains, pulling the Dow down to its lowest level since
February 2nd. Now about 10 stocks in the New York Stock Exchange fell
today, for every one stock that was actually up in price.

So it was pretty broad-based. There were not many places to hide from
the selling, at least in the stock market, or in the commodity market, for
that matter. And the markets fear gauge, the Chicago Board of Options
Exchange Volatility Index jumped as all 10 major stock sectors were lower.

Now this trio led the losers, falling by at least 2 percent each.
We’re looking at the financials, industrials, and materials sectors, all
very sensitive to the U.S. as well as the global economy.

Now with that deadline looming for Greece’s lenders, which we
mentioned earlier, for them to accept a haircut to their investments,
Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) led the financial sector lower.
Shares of MS fell by more than 5 percent. And volume was heavier than
usual, with the stock falling down to a six-week low tonight.

Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) had been among the strongest
banking stocks this year before seeing this recent turn lower.

Even the traditionally defensive health care sector was hit by some
selling after drug-maker Merck’s outlook for the quarter came in
disappointing. Now the shortfall gets the blame on currency fluctuations,
especially between the euro and the U.S. dollar. Shares of Merck
(NYSE:MRK) dropped by more than 2.5 percent.

Now the stock had been trading in a pretty tight range over the past
several months, between $38 on the low side, almost $40 on the high side.
That, of course, was before today’s drop down to 37 and change. This, in
fact, is Merck’s lowest close of the calendar year.

Now we do have some more analysis on Merck (NYSE:MRK) on our Web site,, it’s under the “Blogs” tab.

As we await Friday’s report on jobs, employment services Web site
Monster Worldwide (NYSE:MWW) continued to see heavy trading with shares
jumping by more than 10.5 percent today. It has been a volatile several
months now.

The market continues to speculate about the latest news, a possible
sale. The company has confirmed that it has hired financial advisers to
review strategic alternatives. And, you know, that usually is Wall Street-
speak for “we’re for sale,” or at least thinking about it.

Now the prospects of a deal for part of an independent energy
producer, Harvest Natural Resources (NYSE:HNR), was enough to push this
small-cap energy stock higher. H-N-R, the ticker symbol. Shares jumped 23
percent, volume exploded, more than a million shares trading.

The company said it is in exclusive talks to possibly sell its
Venezuelan assets. Now despite the rising prices of energy, shares of HNR
trade at half of what they were just a year ago, and that’s even with
today’s rally.

Speaking of energy, oil was not immune to today’s selling pressure.
U.S. crude fell more than $2 per barrel. But don’t look for relief at the
pump just yet. Some profit-taking, coupled with talk about slower global
demand, weighed on crude. The Energy Department today cut its outlook for
U.S. demand, expecting it to fall to a 15-year low this year.

Now commodities were weak across some groups. Copper fell by more
than 3 percent. Gold was down by 2 percent, settling below $1,700 an
ounce. And corn dropped by 1 percent.

That is tonight’s “Market Focus.”

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