Stock futures defended their early gains Thursday amid mixed earnings news and as unemployment data showed a downshift from last week’s five-month highs. ASML Holdings and Taiwan Semiconductor stirred up the chip sector. Paccar and Ford jumped on autonomous/electric vehicle news. Bitcoin slumped, but PayPal Holdings jumped toward a buy point. Apple traded high on the Dow Jones today, after an analyst hiked the stock’s price target ahead of its first-quarter report.
Nasdaq 100 futures led, gaining 0.5% with ASML Holdings (ASML) and Paccar (PCAR) leading in early trade. Dow Jones futures climbed 0.2%, and S&P 500 futures rose 0.25% above fair value. Small caps traded alongside the Nasdaq, with Russell 2000 futures up 0.5%.
Airlines traded at the bottom of the S&P 500. United Airlines led the declines, down 2% after undercutting analysts’ fourth-quarter expectations and providing weak Q1 guidance.
Other earnings news was comparatively quiet, after the blowout session from Netflix (NFLX) on Wednesday. Kinder Morgan (KMI) rose 3%, and Keycorp (KEY) added 2% after earnings reports. Contract manufacturer Plexus (PLXS) gained 2.7% after a fiscal first-quarter earnings beat and a positive outlook from management.
Chip stocks were in motion, after posting a soft session on Wednesday. ASML Holdings punched up 4.7% to lead the Nasdaq after reporting a powerful fourth-quarter performance late Wednesday. New Street Research upgraded the stock’s European shares to buy, from neutral. ASML stock has climbed in 10 of the past 11 weeks, and is up 37% since clearing a double-bottom base buy point at 401.25 in early November.
Taiwan Semiconductor (TSM) topped both the IBD 50 and IBD Leaderboard lists in premarket trade. The stock rose 3.5% in early trade. Shares are in a profit-taking zone, up more than 20% since clearing a 107.94 three-weeks tight buy point earlier this month.
The iShares PHLX Semiconductor ETF (SOXX) gained 0.8% in premarket trade.
Jobless Claims Ease, But Less Than Expected
First-time applications for unemployment support rose to 900,000 in hte week ended Jan. 16, the Department of Labor reported. That was above the 890,000 claims projected by economists, but well below the prior week’s jump to 965,000 claims, a five-month high.
December housing starts and building permits, and the Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s January Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey were also released at 8:30 a.m. ET.
Dow Jones Today: Apple Price Target, Travelers Earnings
Microsoft (MSFT), Apple (AAPL) and Saleforce.com (CRM) were the top gainers among the Dow industrials on Wednesday. Apple stepped up to an early lead on Thursday, up 1.4% on the Dow Jones today after Morgan Stanley hoisted its price target on the stock to 152, from 144. The report projected above-consensus quarterly performance on both the revenue and earnings lines. Apple is due to report its fiscal first-quarter results next Wednesday.
Ahead of earnings, Apple stock presents a challenge to investors. Shares are holding above an alternative entry at 125.49. But Apple also dropped more than 7% after briefly clearing on Dec. 29 a standard buy point at 138.08. That drop triggered the automatic sell rule. The stock has now formed a handle with a new buy point at 138.89, supplanting the prior 138.08 entry.
Insurance giant Travelers (TRV) also traded at the top of the Dow, up 1.7%, despite a mixed fourth-quarter report.
Bitcoin Slide Continues, PayPal Jumps On Upgrade
Bitcoin continued its pullback, trading almost 5% lower early Thursday near $32,700, according to CoinDesk. The leading cryptocurrency had hit highs above $41,500 on Jan. 8.
PayPal Holdings (PYPL), an IBD Leaderboard stock, gained 1.4% following a late-day upgrade on Wednesday. BTIG upgraded the stock to buy, from hold, and gave it a 300 price target. The note cited an accelerated shift to digital payments due to the coronavirus pandemic, and said the company’s growth outlook improved sharply when it began handling cryptocurrencies in October.
PayPal stock has been toggling over and under an alternative buy point at 244.35, after a bounce off support at its 21-day exponential moving average.
Paccar, Ford Get EV/Autonomous Vehicle Boosts
Heavy truck maker Paccar swung more than 5% higher in premarket action, topping the S&P 500. The maker of Kenworth, Peterbuilt and other leading truck brands jumped 4% on Wednesday, then retreated to finish with a factional gain. The company on Wednesday announced a partnership with Amazon.com-backed startup Aurora Innovation to develop a line of autonomous heavy trucks. Paccar said the project aimed to develop and test self-driving versions of certain Peterbilt and Kenworth truck models.
Paccar stock has shaped an 11-week flat base with a 95.92 buy point, according to IBD MarketSmith chart analysis. The stock carries a weak 23 Composite Rating from IBD.
Ford Motor (F) climbed 3% Thursday. Ford owns a minority stake in electrical vehicle start-up Rivian. Rivian, which expects to release its first model later this year, took in $2.7 billion in fresh investment financing on Tuesday.
Ford shares cleared a flat base buy point at 9.60 on Jan. 12. Wednesday’s 8.4% gain left the stock extended 13% above the buy point.
Among other EV makers, Tesla (TSLA) gained 0.4% in early trade. China-based Xpeng (XPEV) gained 2.6% early Thursday. The stock is narrowing the gap to a potential buy point at 74.59. But shares reversed sharply out of early gains on Wednesday, leaving the stock down 2.6%.
Stock Market Uptrend: Some Mixed Messages
The stock market’s confirmed uptrend delivered a mixed message on Wednesday. Netflix helped revive the flagging FANG stock tech leaders, and the Nasdaq, S&P 500 and Dow industrials all rallied to record highs. The session’s advance shook off three distribution days for the Nasdaq, one for the S&P 500. That left the overall market in a more upwardly mobile stance.
However, the gain left the Nasdaq 6% above its 50-day moving average, hinting that the index might be due for some consolidation to allow its moving averages to catch up.
For more detailed analysis of the current stock market and its status, study the Big Picture.
The takeaway message for investors, is mind the market status: a confirmed uptrend. The market continues to give a greenlight to new or follow-on buys of leading stocks passing valid buy points. Pay close attention to sell signals, but don’t get nervous and shaken out too easily. Even if the Nasdaq does pause for some consolidation, signals at this stage point only to a touchback to nearby support.
Find Alan R. Elliott on Twitter @IBD_Aelliott
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