Coal Producers Lead Advance In Energy Sector and Equity Funds Gain Back Some Ground As Economy Revives

Three coal producers topped the list: SinoCoking (SCOK), Patriot Coal (PCX) and Puda Coal (PUDA).  Oil prices rose to near $81 at midday, which helped boost coal and solar plays. But Patriot jumped specifically on reported rumors of its being an acquisition target for Massey Energy (MEE). Patriot spun off from global coal heavyweight Peabody Energy (BTU) in 2007, aiming to become a consolidator in the Appalachian region. Massey is a larger Appalachian-region play.

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SinoCoking and Puda are among the handful of coal producers in the industry based in China. All are involved in the state-supported consolidation of China’s coal sector. The thinly traded SinoCoking has swung wildly recently, jumping 13% on Tuesday.

But 11 of the 65 stocks in the group hold EPS Ratings above 80. Among those leaders, Cloud Peak Energy (CLD), L&L Energy (LLEN), Alliance Holdings (AHGP) and Alpha Natural Resources (ANR) also saw solid gains Tuesday. [Read the full article]

The average U.S. diversified stock fund rose 3.42% in the month, leaving it down 0.24% for the year, according to Lipper Inc. Growth funds held a slight edge over value among larger caps, but value ruled among small caps. Midcaps, both value and growth, beat large and small caps. Bond funds were mixed.

During the month the broad market rallied, but remained under the influence of the recent correction.

The economy showed further signs of fitful recovery. Q4 earnings results exceeded forecasts. In the middle of the month, the Fed took a largely symbolic step of raising the discount rate, buttressing the case that the economy was on the right track. And inflation remained tame. Higher-than-expected January retail sales were reported.

Among sectors, real estate funds rose 5.55%, topping all other major sectors in the month. The group’s 94.42% gain in the past 52 weeks topped all other sectors. [Read the full article]

Nagging anxiety over the economy provided support for the bond market, mitigating a decline in Treasury demand on concerns over Greece. Traders were reluctant to shrink their Treasury holdings much in advance of Friday’s employment report, analysts said.

“No one wants to be short going into the payroll number,” said George Goncalves, head of U.S. rate strategy at Nomura Securities International. “There has been some unwind of the flight-to-safety trade, but it hasn’t completely gone away.”

Worries that Greece may be unable to service its debt have underpinned Treasuries in recent weeks.

Ongoing discussions between Greek and EU officials had investors upping bets that debt-strapped Greece would get some sort of financial help.

Even if the two sides strike a deal, signs of cracks in the economic recovery have fanned the perception that the Federal Reserve will cling to its near-zero interest rate policy into late 2010. [Read the full article]

The NYSE composite rallied 0.8%, the Nasdaq 0.6% and the S&P 500 0.5%. Meanwhile, the Dow lagged with a 0.2% rise. Gains in Chevron (CVX) and 3M (MMM) were softened by losses in IBM (IBM) and Microsoft (MSFT).

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) ran up 7%, extending earlier gains. The stock cleared an 88.75 buy point from a base-on-base pattern. Green Mountain has traded just over twice its average volume.

Elsewhere, Verifone Holdings (PAY) climbed 4% to its best levels since September 2008. The provider of electronic payment services reports earnings after the close. Analysts see profit rising 35% to 23 cents a share.

Big 5 Sporting Goods (BGFV) erased earlier losses and rose 1%. The retailer also reports earnings after the close. Analysts see profit jumping 94% to 33 cents a share. Revenue is slated to rise 8% to $237.5 million. That would mark the third straight quarter of accelerating growth.

2:15 p.m. [Read the full article]

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