Major Benchmarks Take A Breather Ahead Of Long Weekend

Stocks are eyeing a muted afternoon of trading, as February's wild rally hits the brakes ahead of the three-day weekend. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) is down roughly 20 points midday, while the S&P 500 Index (SPXand Nasdaq Composite (IXIC) are both slightly higher. It seems as if investors are now looking for clues that the next stages of economic recovery are going into effect, before pricing in any more growth for the market. Disappointing weekly jobless data, of course, isn't helping matters, though upbeat vaccine headlines could be keeping a steeper selloff at bay. 

midday market stats feb 12

One name seeing a surge in options activity on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) today is Quantumscape Corp (NYSE: QS). The security is up 19.6% at $53.89 at last check, after Morgan Stanley initiated coverage with an "overweight" rating and a $70 price target. The analyst said the company is creating "game-changing" solid-state battery technology and cited a collaboration with Volkswagen. So far, 198,000 calls and 28,000 puts have crossed the tape -- six times the intraday average. Most popular is the weekly 2/12 55-strike call, where positions are being opened. This suggests traders are expecting to see even more upside for the underlying equity by the time these contracts expire later this afternoon. On the charts, the security is just now cooling off from a Dec. 22, all-time high of $132.70, and has added 174.6% in the past three months.

Artelo Biosciences Inc (Nasdaq: ARTLis one of the best stocks on the Nasdaq today, following fresh coverage from Ladenburg, which started with a "buy" rating and a $7 price target -- a nearly 330% premium to last night's close. The equity is up 96.3% at $3.20 at last check, and earlier hit an annual high of $3.67. While ARTL saw a gradual pullback that eventually culminated in a Nov. 2, roughly three-year low of $0.45, the security quickly found footing atop the 30-day moving average, which has helped guide the stock to an impressive year-to-date lead of 297.9%. 

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