The year’s hot start continued on Thursday, as impressive results for retail stores and upbeat analyst comments on the financial sector pushed most benchmarks higher. Even the automotive sector is looking up, as GM predicted that it would turn a profit in 2010. Across the world, China inched up a key interest rate, a move that could be a sign of things to come for the global growth engine.
The ETFdb 60 Index declined 1.52 points, or 0.1%, to close the day at 1,052.31. Thursday’s loss was the first session of the new year to finish in the red.
Leading the way lower was the United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG), which had surged earlier in the week as a cold snap moved across the country. The Energy Information Administration announced in its weekly report that gas inventories declined by 153 billion cubic feet last week, roughly in line with analyst estimates. UNG declined by 2.0% on Thursday, its smallest single session movement of the year. UNG is still up more than 5% on the week, the result of huge rallies on Monday and Wednesday.
Despite a disappointing performance in 2009, UNG continues to be one of the most active exchange-traded products. More than 41 million shares traded hands on Thursday. Natural gas prices should see considerable volatility in upcoming weeks, as weather conditions across the country weigh on demand.
Financials advanced on Thursday, as an upgrade of Bank of America from Credit Suisse sent shares higher and boosted the broader market. The Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLF) gained 2.1% on the day, and is already up more than 6% on the year.
Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.