Another rocky session on Wall Street left most stocks slightly higher for the week as hopes for a bailout in Greece carried the markets to the green. However, this optimism petered out shortly after lunch and most indexes lost most of their hard earned gains to close out the week. Nevertheless, the Dow managed to recapture the 12,000 mark while the S&P rose by 0.3%, helping both to snap a six week losing streak. Unfortunately, for those invested in the tech-heavy Nasdaq, that index fell again on the day, slumping by 0.3%. In commodity markets, gold and silver both gained on the day but weakness was again seen in many soft commodities although cotton and sugar both put up gains approaching 2% to close out the week. The real focus was in energy markets as natural gas fell by close to 1.6% and WTI crude finished the week just above the $93/bbl. level, down 2% on the day.
One of the biggest ETF winners on the day was the iShares Dow Jones Transportation Index Fund (IYT) which gained 1.1% in Friday trading. These gains were largely thanks to a continued slump in the price of crude oil which was down to a level not seen since January in today’s trading session. In fact, USO, an ETF that tracks light sweet crude oil futures, is down close to 8% over the past week alone, showcasing just how hard this corner of the market has been hit by concerns over demand. “There are still a lot of questions about the Greek bailout and what that will mean for the demand picture,” said Phil Flynn, vice president of research at PFGBest in Chicago. “The oil market seems more skeptical about the debt crisis than the equity market. A lot of technical damage was done to the market this week.” Luckily for investors in IYT, traders shrugged off concerns over demand and focused in on the lower crude oil prices which can potentially boost margins across the industry. This uptick in sentiment helped to carry IYT to a market-beating performance on the day, even though the fund’s volume was extremely light; only 280,000 shares changed hands, well under the 813,000 average [see charts of IYT here].
One of the biggest losers in the ETFdb 60 was the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (VXX) which sank by 1.9% to close out the week. This gain came as traders’ demand for this ETN representation of the ‘fear index’ declined sharply after worries over a Greek default temporarily subsided. This was largely the result of a meeting between the leaders of France and Germany in which the two economic giants seemed to agree in principle on coming up with another package to bailout Greece in hopes that the risks will not spread to other nations such as Ireland or Portugal. Despite today’s losses, it has been a great stretch for VXX as the fund has gained 10.6% over the past week and close to 13.7% over the past two week period on escalating tensions in the euro zone region. Should the package fall through over the weekend and if other members of euro zone appear to be in significant trouble, today’s losses for VXX could just be a temporary blip on the road to more gains next week [see fundamentals of VXX here].
Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.