Of course, the news media is celebrating the fact that the indices kicked off 2012 with a good-sized gain. But for traders, it was awful. Following the gap up to start the day, we traded poorly and closed at the low. All the gains came overnight, and there was no intraday momentum to be found.
Breath was quite good and all major sectors were in the green, but volume was light and few, if any stocks, closed at their highs. It's the same action that has frustrated traders for months because all the movement occurs overnight. Pure day traders, who aren't carrying any inventory, had few chances to match the gains of the indices.
The second day of the new year is generally considered the close of the holiday trading period, and much of the artificiality caused by mark-ups, positioning and tax moves end. That doesn't mean stocks will suddenly start trading on their individual merits, but there should be a bit more focus on stock picking as we head into earnings season.