Stocks fell Wednesday, with losses accelerating after minutes
from the latest Federal Open Market Committee rate-setting meeting
suggested the central bank may have to slow or stop buying assets
before seeing a pickup in hiring.
The Nasdaq Composite Index slid more than 1%, with smaller
losses for the Dow Industrial Average and the S&P 500. All 10
industry sectors in the S&P 500 lost ground, with the steepest
declines for mining and energy stocks following reports a
commodity-oriented hedge fund was forced to sell today, resulting
in sharp price drops.
Minutes of the FOMC last month showed policy makers were divided
about the strategy behind Chairman Ben S. Bernanke's program of
buying bonds until there is "substantial" improvement in a U.S.
labor market. Some members on the panel said an earlier end to
purchases might be needed while others warned against a premature
withdrawal of stimulus. Several policy makers said the central bank
should be ready to vary the pace of their $85 billion in monthly
Today's market again saw a new batch of mergers and
acquisitions, with Office Max (
) and Office Depot (
) agreed to combine in $1.2 bln stock swap. But trader response to
the deal was somewhat muted, with shares of both companies ending
lower - in part, due to a botched official announcement of the
deal. OMX shares also were pressured from its Q4 results trailing
year-ago comparisons despite matching analyst forecasts for the
Commodities slumped amid talk a large hedge fund was forced to
liquidate its holdings ahead of the expiration of the March futures
contracts today. Media outlets could not identify the firm but the
talk was enough to take a 2% bite out of gold futures and shave
more than 3% from silver futures. Crude oil fell over $2, settling
at $94.63 a barrel, the first time crude has closed under $95 since
Nanex, which supplies real-time data services, reported that the
April crude-oil futures contract was hit with over 2,500 contracts
within two seconds Wednesday morning, sending oil prices sharply
lower. The weekly oil-inventory numbers from the American Petroleum
Institute are due out later this afternoon with the more closely
watched U.S. Energy Information Administration report coming out
tomorrow. Both reports were delayed due to Monday's holiday and are
expected to show a build in crude inventories.
There was a pair of economic reports this morning although
neither appeared to have a significant impact on market direction.
U.S. housing starts fell more than expected in January to an
890,000 pace, compared to consensus expectations anticipating
920,000 housing starts. Also, the Producer Price Index for finished
goods rose 0.2% in January following a 0.3% decline in December and
0.4% in November. The index for finished goods less foods and
energy rose 0.2% in January.
Here's where the U.S. markets stood at end of day:
Dow Jones Industrial Average Down 0.77% to 13,927.54
S&P 500 Down 1.24% to 1,511.95
Nasdaq Composite Index Down 1.53% to 3,164.41
Hang Seng Index up 0.70%
Shanghai China Composite Index up 0.59%
FTSE 100 Index up 0.09%
(+) NVGN, Extends big advance from Tuesday's session, which
followed a study showing its experimental cancer drug CS-6 was
highly active against ovarian cancer stem cells.
(+) NTSP, Receives $16-a-share buyout offer last night from
Total System Services (
). The $1.4 bln all-cash deal also pushed Green Dot (
) shares higher, rekindling hopes the prepaid-debit-card provider
also may be a takeover candidate.
(+) CRTX, Majority shareholder offers to buy the 40% of shares
it doesn't already own for between $6.40 to $6.70 each and taking
the drug-maker private.
(+) LZB, Posts 18% jump in Q3 earnings to $0.32 per share,
beating analyst expectations by $0.09 as its retail segment swung
back to profitability. Net sales rose 10.3% to $349.1 mln, also
(+) MDRX, Non-GAAP Q4 revenue falls 5.4% from year-ago levels to
$368 mln but still beats analyst projections by $1 mln. Adjusted
EPS of $0.16 trails the Street view by $0.05 per share.
(-) HNR, Pulls plug on proposed $725-mln sale of its hydrocarbon
assets in Venezuela to PT Pertamina after the Indonesian government
- the sole shareholder of PT Pertamina - voted against the
(-) MM, Q4 revenue of $58 mln trails analyst consensus by $4.8
mln. Guides Q1 sales below Street view. Also, acquires privately
held mobile media buying and targeting platform for undisclosed
sum. Morgan Stanley downgrade to Equal Weight.
(-) ANID, Adjusted Q4 net loss widens to $0.20 per share,
missing the Street consensus by a penny. Withholds future guidance.
Analysts are expecting another $0.20 loss in Q1 and a $0.56 a share
loss for FY13.
(-) ONCY, Prices 7 mln-share offering at $4 apiece.
(-) PVR, Q4 GAAP loss of $0.30 per share trails analyst
forecasts looking for $0.14 profit. Revenue declines 6.3% to $269.6
mln, also lagging the Street consensus by about $10.59 mln.