Mid-Morning Market Update: Markets Open Higher; Francesca's Issues Downbeat Q1 Forecast

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Following the market opening Wednesday, the Dow traded up 0.35 percent to 16,424.91 while the NASDAQ surged 0.40 percent to 4,251.30. The S&P also rose, gaining 0.38 percent to 1,872.63.

Leading and Lagging Sectors Healthcare sector moved up 0.62 percent, with Alimera Sciences (NASDAQ: ALIM ) moving up 6 percent to gain the top spot. Top gainers in the sector included Clovis Oncology (NASDAQ: CLVS ), with shares up 5.9 percent, and Laboratory Corp. of America Holdings (NYSE: LH ), with shares up 4.7 percent.

In trading on Wednesday, utilities shares gained by just 0.10 percent. Among the sector stocks, Ormat Technologies (NYSE: ORA ) was down more than 1.4 percent, while Exelon (NYSE: EXC ) tumbled around 1.3 percent.

Top Headline Francesca's Holdings (NASDAQ: FRAN ) reported a 29% drop in its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings and issued a weak first-quarter outlook. Francesca's expects current-quarter earnings of $0.20 to $0.24 per share on sales of $85 million and $90 million. However, analysts projected earnings of $0.28 per share on sales of $92 million. Francesca's posted its quarterly profit of $10.6 million, or $0.25 per share, versus a year-ago profit of $14.9 million, or $0.33 per share.

Excluding special items, its adjusted earnings came in at $0.27 per share. Its revenue rose 6.3% to $92.1 million. The company had projected a profit of $0.27 to $0.29 per share on sales of $93 million to $95 million. Its gross margin shrank to 50.6% from 53.4%, while comparable-store sales slipped 6%.

Equities Trading UP Five Below (NASDAQ: FIVE ) shares shot up 15.41 percent to $43.86 after the company reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter results. The company posted its quarterly adjusted earnings of $0.47 per share on revenue of $212 million. However, analysts were projecting earnings of $0.45 per share on revenue of $207.8 million.

Shares of Steelcase (NYSE: SCS ) got a boost, shooting up 11.92 percent to $16.32 after the company reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings. Steelcase reported its Q4 earnings of $0.18 per share, beating analysts' estimates by $0.01 per share. Raymond James upgraded the stock from Outperform to Strong Buy and lifted the price target from $17.50 to $19.00.

Movado Group (NYSE: MOV ) was also up, gaining 9.28 percent to $45.93 after the company reported upbeat Q4 earnings and issued a strong FY15 outlook.

Equities Trading DOWN

Shares of Exelixis (NASDAQ: EXEL ) were down 33.31 percent to $4.30 after the company issued an update on ongoing COMET-1 phase 3 pivotal trial in men with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. Stifel Nicolaus lowered the price target on the stock from $11.00 to $9.00.

Francesca's Holdings (NASDAQ: FRAN ) shares tumbled 9.35 percent to $18.91 after the company reported a 29% drop in its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings and issued a weak Q1 outlook.

International Game Technology (NYSE: IGT ) was down, falling 7.34 percent to $13.76 after the company announced its plans to lower 7% of its workforce and cut its earnings guidance for the year.

Commodities In commodity news, oil traded up 0.47 percent to $99.66, while gold traded up 0.09 percent to $1,312.60.

Silver traded up 0.18 percent Wednesday to $20.02, while copper fell 0.68 percent to $2.99.

Eurozone European shares were higher today.

The Spanish Ibex Index rose 1.73 percent, while Italy's FTSE MIB Index climbed 1.06 percent.

Meanwhile, the German DAX jumped 1.45 percent and the French CAC 40 rose 1.23 percent while U.K. shares surged 0.50 percent.

Economics The MBA reported that its index of mortgage application activity dropped 3.50% in the week ended March 21.

US durable-goods orders gained 2.2% in February, versus economists' expectations for a 0.8% rise.

The preliminary reading of the Markit services PMI came in at 55.50 in March, versus economists' expectations for a reading of 54.00.

The Treasury is set to auction 5-year notes.

© 2014 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.



This article appears in: Investing , Economy , Futures , International

Referenced Stocks: EXEL , EXC , IGT , LH , MOV

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