Trader Talk

Stock market midday: Steady as she goes

Trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Getty Images

Stocks are mostly higher midday, with three stocks advancing for every two declining at the NYSE. The first push higher occurred as we went into the European close at 11:30 a.m. ET.

There are not a lot of positive catalysts, other than a much calmer situation in Russia/Ukraine, but sometimes just the absence of a lot of negative ones is enough to move the markets.

What matters is the small-cap Russell 2000 is leading the major indices, especially since Barron's ran a bullish piece over the weekend.

Internet content names like Zillow (Z), Pandora (P), YELP (YELP), LinkedIn (LINK) are all up three to four percent.

In addition, biotech stocks are all up, and the Biotech ETF (XBI) has stabilized: After dropping 30 percent in March and April, the XBI, while still volatile on an intraday basis, has been closing in a very narrow range for the past month. That kind of stability really helps confidence.

Defensive names like Utilities, Telecom and Consumer Staples are all lagging.

Banks are also mostly on the upside. Wells Fargo (WFC) will have an analyst meeting Tuesday; there is considerable expectation that the company will increase its payout ratio. The good news: It'll be returning more money to shareholders in the form of a higher dividend. The bad news: It is acquiring capital faster than it can lend it out, a sign the lending business is still not robust.