This Is the Reason the S&P 500 Gave Up 97% of Today's Advance


Just when you thought the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) was set to resoundingly break a four-day losing streak, more jobs confusion, and a one-two punch from Spain and Greece, sent the market into a tailspin.

Jobless claims figures released earlier today fell by a sizable 30,000 to an annualized rate of just 339,000 - a four-year low. However, questionable data, which includes figures not reported from a large state, led many pundits to believe by the end of the day that this data may prove unreliable.

Furthermore, an endless sea of negative data from Europe continues to sap the market of optimism. Standard & Poor's downgraded Spain's credit rating two notches to BBB- and set the country's outlook as "negative." Greece's news was equally as damaging, reporting that its unemployment rate has topped 25% -- a figure that seems unfathomable to those of us in the United States.

Unsurprisingly, the S&P 500 gave up early gains, which had the broad-market index up as much as 11.34 points, to end up a paltry 0.30 points (0.02%), to 1,432.84. Let's have a quick look at a few companies most directly responsible for today's move in the S&P 500.

Not to sound like a broken record, but the big winner today was, yet again, the coal sector. If you recall, coal companies, like Alpha Natural Resources (NYS: ANR) and Peabody Energy (NYS: BTU) , have benefited from rising natural gas prices, which makes coal a more attractive fuel-generating investment. The boost today comes from comments by an analyst at Dahlman Rose, who sees an increase in Chinese steel demand boosting metallurgical coal companies whose product is used to strengthen steel. Alpha Natural and Peabody ended the day higher by 17% and 9%, respectively.

The nation's number three mobile carrier, Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) , soared 14% today, following a report that Japanese cell phone company Softbank is considering making a substantial investment in the company, which could involve a change in ownership control. Sprint has struggled mightily to build out a 4G network that's comparable to Verizon Wireless or AT&T, and was also late to the game in bringing the iPhone to its network. After multiple stumbles, and a boatload of debt, perhaps a buyout is exactly what Sprint shareholders are hoping for.

There were no smiles to be had for Dollar Tree (NAS: DLTR) shareholders today, which fell 8%, after the discount retailer issued a weak third-quarter earnings outlook. Blaming higher gas prices and cautious consumer spending, Dollar Tree now expects to post results at the low-end of its previously forecasted revenue guidance of $1.71 billion to $1.75 billion. You might think falling consumer spending would lead to a thriftier shopper, which should feed right into Dollar Tree's hands, but even these discount stores need consumers to purchase higher-margin discretionary items in order to grow their business. As of now, it seems like that just isn't happening.

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