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Stocks were mixed on the day as the S&P finished with marginal losses and the Dow and Nasdaq posted gains.  In many ways it was a continuation of the incredible streak we’ve seen over the last 5 weeks.  The SPY was just a fraction from extending its winning streak to 15 sessions.  The Dow extended its winning streak to 8 sessions.  While the S&P was lower on the day the losses were marginal and any downside was immediately and relentlessly met with bullish action.  The S&P traded lower by 0.4% in early morning trade, but like every dip over the last 5 weeks it was quickly bought.  This has been a powerful trend in recent weeks as the few down days we’ve seen have been minor losses.  The relentless march towards 1,200 continues in a nearly straight line higher.

Breadth was weak on the day at 1.5:1 and continues to show signs of weakness as the broadness of the rally has certainly waned in the last week.  Volume was low again, but this has become a trademark characteristic of positive days in the last month (which has been essentially every day).  Notable action included a move out of risk assets today.  While the Dow powered higher banks and small caps (the trademark high beta movers of the recent rally) were weaker on the day.  This could be the beginning of a change in risk appetite as investors begin to rotate from high risk names to more defensive names.

From Daily Futures:

U.S. Economy
The U.S. Labor Department said that jobless claims were down 5,000 last week to 457,000, roughly as expected.

The Labor Department also said that consumer prices were unchanged in February and up 2.1% from a year ago, slightly less than expected. The June 2011 eurodollars were down .035 at 98.455.

The Conference Board’s index of U.S. ‘leading’ indicators was up .1% in January.

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s regional index of manufacturing increased from 17.6 to 18.9 in March, better than expected.

Grains and Cotton
The USDA said that, as of last week, 2009-2010 exports of:
Corn remained up 6% from a year ago.
Soybeans improved from up 33% to up 34% from a year ago.
Wheat remained down 21% from a year ago.
Cotton improved from down 23% to down 20% from a year ago.

On March 31st, the USDA will release its prospective plantings report for 2010. May corn was lower for most of the day, but closed up 2 cents at $3.76, the highest close in over a week.

July wheat ended down 6.75 cents at $5.02, pressured by today’s stronger U.S. dollar.

According to Bloomberg news, a Chinese cotton researcher expects cotton acreage in China to be down nearly 5% this year. May cotton closed up 1.04 at 83.04.

It looks like beef demand is picking up. The USDA said that net sales of beef totaled 13,000 tons last week, up 40% from the four-week average. June cattle closed up 1.20 cents at a new contract high of 95.17, ahead of tomorrow’s monthly cattle on feed report.

June hogs closed up 1.90 cents at a new contract high of 82.92, blamed on fund buying.

May coffee closed up 1.95 cents at $1.3555, the highest in three weeks with talk of dry weather in Brazil.

Orange juice
With winter in the rear view mirror and the USDA’s latest Florida orange crop estimate at 131 million boxes, orange juice prices may be losing some of their panic. May orange juice fell 4.40 cents to $1.4410, the lowest close in two weeks.

The U.S. Department of Energy said that underground supplies of natural gas were down 11 billion cubic feet last week to 1.615 trillion cubic feet, a smaller decline than expected. Supplies are now down 2% from a year ago. May natural gas dropped 21.8 cents to a new contract low of $4.153.

May crude oil was down .67 at $82.54, pressured by doubts about demand while prices are near contract highs.

After today’s consumer price report, some must be wondering where the inflation is that was expected to result from increased government spending and low interest rates? April gold ended up $3.30 at $1,127.50 in spite of today’s gain in the U.S. dollar.

We keep hearing that Europe is about to provide financial aid to Greece, but no specific agreement has come about yet. Supposedly, Germany is the obstacle. The June euro closed down 1.34 cents at $1.3620.