Stock markets carried their momentum from Wednesday trading into today’s session as all of the major benchmarks managed to finish in the green once again, thanks to strength from the tech sector. The Dow gained just 0.1%, and was largely outshadowed by the 0.4% gain in the S&P 500 and the 0.8% jump in the tech-heavy Nasdaq which soared thanks to a 2.1% gain from Microsoft. Commodities, however, were weaker on the day as a jobless claims number that hit 424k left some lingering concerns over demand, helping to send oil lower by close to 1.1% in Thursday trading. Other commodities, including gold and silver also experienced some selling as investors bought up U.S. Treasury bonds instead as both the two and ten year T-Bonds saw yields fall again today. In fact, the two year fell below the 0.5% yield mark while the 10 Year saw its yield slip by seven basis points to the 3.06% level, suggesting that despite a rising stock market investors are increasing their stakes in U.S. government debt.
One of the biggest winners on the day was the iShares MSCI South Korea Index Fund (EWY) which gained 2.3% in the session. Today’s sharp gains for this often volatile market came as investors cheered the release of some positive data on the Korean economy. The country’s consumer sentiment index rose to 104 from 100 while strategists at Credit Suisse and Citigroup both said that the country’s stocks should advance on improved earnings. “The Kospi may rise to 2,350 by the end of the year,” Citigroup analysts led by Michael Chung said in a report as the Korean benchmark closed at 2,091.91 today. Thanks to this bullish report, many investors scooped up EWY which represents the most liquid and popular way to access the Korean market [see holdings of EWY here].
One of the biggest losers in the ETFdb 60 was the United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG) which tumbled by 1.2% in today’s session. These losses were largely the result of the weekly EIA report which showed that stockpiles of the important fuel rose more than predicted in the previous week. In the data release, the department showed that the amount of fuel rose by 105bcf in the week ending May 20th to 2.024tcf. This compares to analyst expectations which ranged from an increase of between 95 and 97 billion cubic feet of the fuel. “It was a little bit surprising to the upside, and maybe it’s a measure of the strength on the supply side,” said Martin King, an analyst at FirstEnergy Capital Corp. in Calgary. “It’s a question of how fast the year-over-year deficit is going to close.” Thanks to this extra supply, as well as surprisingly mild weather across much of the Midwest and Northeast, UNG struggled in Thursday trading, trending down on slightly above average volume which helped to send the fund to a -7.4% return so far in 2011 [see fundamentals of UNG here].
Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.