If there was any doubt the stock market is seeking direction, Wednesday’s trading provided new evidence.
Indexes shifted direction several times. They opened higher, reversed lower, pared losses then went on a last-hour swoon. Such is the nature of the market as buyers and sellers wrestle for control.
The Nasdaq composite closed with a loss of 0.9% in a seesaw session that took the index up as much as 1.2% and down as much as 1.4%. The S&P 500 closed 0.8% lower as it also fluctuated drastically.
Both indexes remain below their 200-day moving averages. But the Dow Jones industrial average, which fell 0.8%, found some support at its 200-day line. That moving average is near the 25,000 level, which may serve as a psychological barrier.
Volume was higher, according to preliminary numbers. Losers led advancers by about a 2-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq and by more than 3-2 on the NYSE.
Small caps fared little better, with the Russell 2000 off 0.6% at the closing bell.
Department stores were one of Wednesday’s weakest groups after Macy’s (M) fell sharply despite a strong earnings report. The company easily beat third-quarter estimates and it gave signs of a strong holiday quarter. Macy’s shares slid 7% in big volume, although a base is still technically taking shape.
Semiconductors were a top-performing sector, which gave the Nasdaq some strength. But biotechs fell about 2% and were a drag on the composite. The Philadelphia semiconductor index rose 0.4%.
Apple (AAPL) remained a thorn in the market’s side. Apple, still the largest stock by market cap, fell further below its 200-day line. A gain of about 20% from a buy point at 194.30 is now wiped out, which is a late sell signal. The stock was downgraded again Wednesday.
Leading stocks were little changed, with the Innovator IBD 50 ETF down a fraction. The ETF slightly undercut its prior low at 30.15 before closing with a 0.8% decline.
Financials were broadly lower, and a few insurers were off sharply. Progressive (PGR) plunged 9.5% as it broke below the 50-day line in heavy volume. Travelers Cos. (TRV) was the weakest Dow component, down 3% in busy trading. Exposure to claims from California’s costly wildfires appeared to hurt some insurance stocks.
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