Markets hesitated today as Alcoa was set to kick off this earning season. SPX opened higher but couldn't hold the highs and closed down $6 at $2042. RUT lost $3 to $1094. Volatility rose about one full point with the VIX closing at 16.2%. Trading volume was basically flat with 2.1 billion shares of the S&P 500 trading today. Trading volume rose 7% on the NYSE, but fell 3% on NASDAQ.
Alcoa (AA) beat analyst earnings estimates but missed sales estimates, so shares were lower in after hours trading. Traders often watch AA for a guage of basic industrial strength. The big banks report later this week and will be watched for additional clues of overall economic strength. Analysts' earnings estimates have been revised downward significantly more than usual as the first quarter progressed, so more attention than usual is being paid to the sales and earnings data as well as the outlooks for the next quarter for the blue chip stocks.
Several members of the FOMC are speaking this week in advance of the beige book being released Wednesday. I am unsure all of this increased transparency is good for the markets. It seems to contribute to the daily price volatility.
If earnings do come in lower this quarter as analysts have predicted, today's market weakness may be the new normal for several weeks.