Lifeless Markets Remain in Holding Pattern, On Pace for Sixth Weekly Gain


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U.S. stocks alternated between minor gains and losses Friday afternoon amid anemic trading volume and virtually no volatility as Wall Street looks to put the finishing touches on its first six-week win streak since January 2011.

Today’s Markets

As of 2:27 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 13.39 points, or 0.10%, to 13263.67, the S&P 500 gained 0.78 points, or 0.06%, to 1416.27 and the Nasdaq Composite added 7.51 points, or 0.25%, to 3069.96. The FOX 50 slipped 0.01 points, or 0.01%, to 1061.49.

Other than the surprise jump in consumer sentiment, there weren't major economic or earnings reports to move the markets, which have seen trading volumes dry up during the vacation-riddled month of August.

Underscoring the relative quiet that has descended upon Wall Street, the VIX volatility index retreated another 6.5% on Friday to as low as 13.36 -- its lowest level since June 2007.

Wall Street was able to break through a weeklong malaise on Thursday thanks a 10% surge for tech bellwether Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) and improving sentiment about the tumultuous eurozone.

The rally left the S&P 500 at its best level since April 4 and just a few points away from making new four-year highs north of 1418.90

In fact, after double-dip fears ate into the markets late in the spring, Wall Street has bounced back and is on track for its first six-week win streak since January 2011.

On the economic front, U.S. stocks had little reaction to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index, which increased to 73.6 in its preliminary August reading. The new report beat expectations for a slight rise to 72.4 and marked the index's highest level since May.

The report could give traders guidance following a much better-than-expected report earlier this week that revealed July retail sales unexpectedly jumped. Consumer stocks like Macy’s (NYSE:M) and (NASDAQ:AMZN) were trading flat after the report.

On the commodities front, crude oil gained 35 cents a barrel, or 0.37%, to $95.95. Gold declined $2.00 a troy ounce, or 0.12%, to $1,617.20.

Corporate Movers

Foot Locker (NYSE:FL) beat the Street with a 59% leap in second-quarter earnings, thanks largely to a 9.8% surge in same-store sales. Net revenue rose 7.8% to $1.38 billion, narrowly topping estimates.

Ann (NYSE:ANN), the parent of Ann Taylor, surged 18% after blowing away estimates with a 24% jump in second-quarter profits to 63 cents a share. The company also upped its 2012 sales targets above the Street's view.

Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN) shares dropped another 9% to fresh all-time lows after the embattled daily deals company was downgraded to "underweight" from "equalweight" by analysts at Evercore Partners (NYSE:EVR). Citing concerns about a cash burn problem, Evercore also slashed its price target to $3 from $6.50.

Aeropostale (NYSE:ARO) retreated 10% a day after disclosing a 98% plunge in second-quarter earnings and issuing a tepid outlook for the third quarter. The teen apparel maker warned it experienced a "soft start" to the crucial back-to-school season.

Global Markets

The U.K.’s FTSE 100 gained 0.31% to 5852.42, Germany’s DAX rose 0.64% to 7040.88 and France’s CAC 40 advanced 0.23% to 3488.38.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped 0.77% to 9162.50 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rallied 0.77% to 20116.07.