Mid-Day Update: Investors Digest Data Showing Improved Jobs Picture, Slower Economic Growth

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Stocks are higher in mid-day trading while investors continued to digest mixed economic data points released today showing the economy grew at a slower-than-expected clip while the employment picture continues to improve.

European and U.S. stocks churned in two-directional trading Wednesday as investors assessed news that the European Central Bank lent far more to the region's banks in three-year loans than was expected. Financial shares gained initially on that result. The broad Stoxx Europe 600 is up 1% at last check.

According to the Labor Department, the number of Americans filing initial claims for regular state unemployment-insurance benefits fell 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 364,000 in the week ended Dec. 17, reaching the lowest level since April 2008. Economists polled by MarketWatch expected claims would rise to 375,000.

Also, the Commerce Department reported that U.S. real gross domestic product for the third quarter was revised to an increase of 1.8% annualized from the earlier estimate of a 2.0% rise. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected third-quarter growth to be unrevised at a 2.0% rate.

In company news:

Yahoo Inc. ( YHOO ) is in talks to cut its stake in Chinese online giant Alibaba to 15% from its current holding of 40%, the Wall Street Journal reported in its online edition late Wednesday. Yahoo in September put the value of its 40% stake at about $13 billion, the paper reported.

NYSE ( NYX ) and Deutsche Boerse may have to directly lobby European Commissioners to obtain approval for their merger after being unable to assuage the concerns of EU antitrust officials about the deal's effects on the derivatives market, Reuters reports.

Shares of Chevron ( CVX ) are higher while The Wall Street Journal reports that the federal police in Brazil are asking federal prosecutors to indict as many as 17 employees from the refiner for their alleged roles in the oil spill off the coast of that country.

Novo Nordisk ( NVO ) today announced that it has submitted a new drug application for the approval of its insulin Degludec to the Japanese Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency. Degludec is the company's ultra-long-acting insulin for the treatment of people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Akamai Technologies ( AKAM ) today announced that it will acquire Cotendo, a company that offers an integrated suite of Web and mobile acceleration services, for $268 million, after expected purchase price adjustments.

Wal-Mart (WMT) shares are lower as the Associated Press reported the retailer pulled a batch of powdered infant formula from over 3,000 stores across the country. The move comes after a newborn became ill with a bacterial infection, the report said. As yet, no government recall has been initiated for 12.5-ounce cans of Enfamil Newborn powder, the report said.

Commodities are higher as February gold contracts are up $6 to $1,603 an ounce while January crude oil contacts are up $0.65 to $94.18 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 0.33% to $36.40 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is up 0.72%, to $7.10.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 0.98% to $154.39. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 0.74% to $53.64. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 2.65% to $29.03.

Here's where markets stand at mid-day:

-Dow Jones Industrial up 0.38%

-S&P 500 up 0.6%

-Nasdaq up 0.7%

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

Nikkei up 1.41%

Hang Seng up 1.86%

Shanghai Composite down 1.12%

FTSE-100 down 0.59%

DAX-30 up down 0.44%

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+)YHOO, (+1.2%) Yahoo in Talks to Cut Alibaba Stake according to WSJ

(+) MU, (+16%) Misses on EPS, Revs

(+)AKAM, (+18%) to Acquire Cotendo

(+) TIBX, (+8%) Tibco Up 4%, in Middle of Extended-Hours Range

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

TEVA, (-0.5%) Names New Europe Head

BBBY, (-6.2%) Beats on Q3 EPS, Issues Mixed Guidance

NVO, (-2.4%) New Drug Application for Ultra-Long-Acting Insulin in Japan



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.

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This article appears in: Investing , Commodities

Referenced Stocks: AKAM , CVX , NVO , NYX , YHOO

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