Mid-Day Update: Stock Ease from Early Gains But Appear to Be Slowing Drop in Recent Minutes

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U.S. stocks are mixed at mid-day, with most of the major indices now pointing lower although the Dow Industrials Index continues to advance, carried by strong earnings from a pair of Dow components.

In economic news, orders for U.S. durable goods rose 3% in December, more than forecast, led by demand for aircraft, autos and business equipment. Excluding transportation equipment, durables orders rose 2.1%. A separate report Thursday showed jobless claims rose last week, with new applications for unemployment benefits increasing 21,000 to 377,000 claims.

Also, the Commerce Department said new home sales fell 2.2% in December to a seasonally adjusted 307,000-unit annual rate. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a 320,000-unit rate. November's sales pace also was revised slightly lower.

Among the S&P Sector indices, consumer, materials and industrials are among the leaders higher with financial and technology issues.

In company news, Dow component Caterpillar ( CAT ) is higher today after the heavy equipment manufacturer reported Q4 earnings of $2.32 per share on $17.24 billion in revenues compared with the prior-year period's $1.47 per share. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were expecting EPS of $1.73 on revenues of $16.05 billion.

3M ( MMM ), also a Dow component, reported Q4 sales of $7.1 billion, better than the analyst view of $7.08 billion on Thomson Reuters. EPS was $1.35 versus expectations of $1.31 per share. The industrial conglomerate also affirmed its 2012 full-year performance expectations.

Netflix ( NFLX ) was up by as much as 20% today after topping Q4 expectations last night and showing signs it has largely stopped the subscriber exodus following its Qwikster fiasco last summer. Net income was $41 million, down 13% from a year earlier. Revenue rose 47% to $876 million. Both were slightly higher than Wall Street analysts had expected. It also signed on 610,000 new subscriber during Q4.

Commodities are higher, supported by a weaker dollar in the wake of the Federal Reserve yesterday saying it could keep interest rate near zero through the end of 2014. Crude oil for March delivery is up $1.27 to $100.65 a barrel in NYMEX trading. February gold is up $26.90 to $1727 an ounce. But natural gas futures are sliding for the first time this week, with the February contract declining 15.2 cents to $2.577 per 1 million British Thermal Units after the Energy Department today said natural-gas inventory levels are still 21.4% above the five-year average of 2.551 trillion cubic feet despite a larger-than-usual drawdown this week.

Among precious metal ETFs, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF is up 1.70% to $56.17 with the SPDR Gold Trust up 0.71% to $167.62. The iShares Silver Trust is ahead 0.40% to $32.50.

Among the energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund is up 0.86% to $38.68. The United States Natural Gas Fund is down 4.89% to $5.64.

Here's where markets stand at mid-day:

NYSE Composite Index up 12.63 (0.16%) at 7,927.44.

Dow Jones Industrial Average up 26.79 (0.21%) at 12,783.75.

S&P 500 down 2.17 (0.16%) at 1,323.88.

NASDAQ Composite down 4.85 (0.17%) at 2,813.46.

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

Nikkei down 0.39%.

Hang Seng up 1.63%.

Shanghai Composite up 1%.

FTSE-100 up 1.13.

MID-DAY NYSE INDEX WATCH

NYSE Energy down 22.04 (0.17%) at 13,058.90.

NYSE Financial up 0.12 (0.00%) at 4,444.43.

NYSE Health Care down 10.67 (0.15%) at 7,150.68.

NYSE Arca Tech 100 down 2.44 (0.21%) at 1,174.76.

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+) MITI, (+31.9%) Agrees to $1.16 buyout by Amgen.

(+) JCP, (+15.3%) Projects FY12 EPS of $2.16, well above Street's $1.60 estimate.

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

(-) MNTA, (-20.5%) Amphastar wins stay in Lovenox legal fight.

(-) ETFC, (-11.3%) Reports Q4 net loss, hurt by slowing trading levels, bank unit.



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: CAT , MMM , NFLX

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