Equity markets trended lower in mid-week trading as the major indexes lost ground to close out the first quarter. Although energy shares trended higher after news the President Obama had lifted a ban on offshore drilling, other sectors fell after a surprising drop in private-sector employment levels ahead of the government’s payrolls data later this week. “It’s a short week and being the end of the quarter, people have locked in a lot of their positions,” said Cleveland Rueckert, market analyst at Birinyi Associates. Among the winners to finish the month was Apple, which again closed at a record high after renewed speculation the the technology giant would develop an iPhone for Verizon. Industrials also trended higher as 3M rose by more than 3.5% and Honeywell jumped by 2.3%.
The ETFdb 60 Index, a benchmark measuring the performance of asset classes available through ETFs, slid 2.35 points, or 0.2%, to close the first quarter at 1,048.76. The ETFdb 60 gained 1.4% during the first quarter of 2010.
One of the big losers on the day was United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG) which sunk by 2.7% in today’s trading. UNG has had a rough first quarter of 2010, losing more than a third of its value since the start of the year. Today’s drop could be on the news that natural gas drilling will soon commence off of the coast of Virginia thanks to Obama’s plan, something that could further increase the supply. In addition, the Midwest and Northeast are currently experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures which could also be decreasing the demand for natural gas.
For the day’s winners, the Market Vectors TR Gold Miners Fund (GDX) led the pack posting a gain of 1.3%. This jump came after gold finished the day ahead by $7.8/oz. to close above the $1112 mark, pushing the metal to a sixth straight quarterly gain. A large part of the strength of gold has been due to high levels of gold imports to India and dollar weakness. “The dollar is pretty weak,” said Dan Faretta, a senior market strategist at LaSalle Futures Group in Chicago. “We’re looking for a rebound in the economy, but the jobs numbers aren’t getting any better. We’re going to see the dollar pull back and continue to fall. It’s going to be bullish for gold and commodities across the board.”
Disclosure: no positions at time of writing