Despite still recovering from a Hurricane, Wall Street surged higher in Monday trading as the damage from Irene was less than expected while comments from Bernanke also helped to boost sentiment. The Dow rose by 2.3% on the day while the S&P 500 gained 2.8% and the Nasdaq surged by 3.3%. Gains were especially robust in the financial sector while the basic material also experienced solid increases as well. Tech was more mixed while utilities also saw some weakness in some of the sector’s biggest names. In commodity markets, gold finished lower by $9/oz. as worries over the storm didn’t come to fruition, while oil gained 2.4% to finish the day just below the $87.5/bbl. mark. The rest of the commodity sector tended to follow oil’s lead higher as most softs rose, but copper and the rest of the metals finished in the red.
Investors also saw a dollar index that was pretty much flat as the benchmark finished the day lower by just two cents on the day. Gains were had against the yen, but the greenback did continue to see slight weakness against the major European currencies, leading to a flat day of trading for the world’s reserve currency. In Treasury markets, yields rose pretty much across the board as investors fled bonds for riskier assets. Two Year notes rose to 0.22% while the Ten Year saw an increase to the 2.28% level, a nine basis point increase for the session.
One of the biggest ETF winners on the day was the Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF) which gained 4.2% in the session. Today’s gains were thanks to a solid performance from Bank of America, which gained another 8.1% on the day as well as robust performances of the insurance group. These firms rose across the board on news that the recent Hurricane didn’t cause as much damage as some feared and was downgraded to a tropical storm before hitting the Northeast. Some of the biggest winners in this corner of the market were Travelers (up 5.1%), XL Capital (up 6.9%), and The Hartford Group which gained just under 13% on the day. Thanks to this broad based strength, XLF had a great performance for the session and helped to lead markets higher to close Monday, giving the fund a 9.7% gain over the past week [see fundamentals of XLF here].
One of the biggest losers in the ETF world was the United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG) which sank by 2.1% on the day. These losses were largely a result of mass power outages in the Northeast and this event’s impact on demand for natural gas and other forms of electricity. By some estimates, as many as 5.5 million homes and business were without power at some point, and nearly three million remained without electricity on Monday afternoon. In fact, some analysts have stated that this storm has reduced demand for natural gas by close to three billion cubic feet already. Thanks to this demand reduction and the already loose supply situation, UNG was one of the bigger losers on the day and is now down 7.9% over the past month alone [see charts of UNG here].
Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.