Mid-Day Update: Stocks Firm Into Session's Half; Investors Cheer ECB Rate Cut

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Stocks have kept gains into the session half as investors digest a range of mixed news on both sides of the Atlantic. Investors cheered the move by the European Central bank to cut its main lending rate as Europe's economic situation worsens in the face of uncertainty over Greece's debt crisis. In the U.S., moderately positive data provided some lift to sentiment as mortgage rates fell following the Federal Reserve's decision on monetary policy yesterday.

In U.S. economic data, the October ISM service jobs index came in at 53.3% compared to 48.7 in September. The index came in moderately lower than the the consensus of 53.5%.

Also, the U.S. benchmark 30-year mortgage rate fell to 4%, Yesterday, the Federal Reserve's rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee made no further moves to ease monetary policy at the end of its two-day meeting on Wednesday. Policy makers found the economy had improved in the September quarter but said downside risks persist

New applications for jobless benefits declined by 9,000 last week to 397,000 according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Economists had expected new claims to fall to 400,000 on a seasonal basis, MarketWatch noted in a report on the data.

Weekly jobless claims and the less-volatile four-week average both declined in the latest week, while productivity data revealed little immediate threat of labor-related inflation. October retail sales reports have been mixed.

In Europe, the European Central Bank cut its key lending rate a quarter point to 1.25% while economists had expected the the institution to hold steady.

France and Germany warned Greece to accept the latest package of measures at the referendum tentatively scheduled for Dec. 4-5, or lose its aid. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also reportedly said that Europe has a plan should Greece abandon the euro, MarketWatch reported.

In mid-day company news:

Shares of Medivation ( MDVN ) are surging after the company reported that the Independent Data Monitoring Committee (IDMC) has confirmed positive results from a planned interim analysis of the Phase 3 AFFIRM trial of MDV3100 in men with advanced prostate cancer previously treated with chemotherapy.

ING Groep ( ING ) is up after saying it will cut 2,000 full-time staff, or 10.5% of its Dutch retail banking operations, according to a report by Reuters. It will also cut 700 contract positions. The report says that ING has now written down all of its bonds to market value and reduced exposure to "peripheral" euro zone bonds by more than 5 billion euros ($6.9bln).

Procter & Gamble ( PG ) and Teva ( TEVA ) created a new partnership and joint venture in consumer healthcare. The joint venture, to be named PGT Healthcare, will be headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and will operate in essentially all markets outside of North America. The partnership between P&G and Teva will also develop new brands for the North American market.

Shares of Apple ( AAPL ) are down while DigiTimes reports that the tech giant plans to completely overhaul its products in 2012 with changes to its iPad, iPhone, iMac and MacBook Air products.

In earnings news:

--MGM Resorts (MGM) reported a Q3 loss per share of $0.14 on revenue of $2.2 billion, in line with analyst estimates.

--NYSE Euronext (NYX) shares are higher after the exchange reported Q3 EPS of $0.71 on revenue of $704 million. Analysts had expected EPS of $0.70 on revenue of $705.04 million.

--Estee Lauder (EL) is sharply higher on the back of its strong FQ1 report. The company reports FQ1 EPS of $1.41 on revenue of $2.5 billion, far higher than analyst estimates for EPS of $1.18 on revenue of $2.41 billion. The stock hit a 52-week high of $120.34 today.

Commodities are higher as December gold contracts are up 1.84% to $1,761 an ounce while December crude oil contacts are up 1.10% to $93.53 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 1.4% to $36.15 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is down 1.5%, to $8.76.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 1.5% to $171.54. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 2.1% to $61.24. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 0.8% to $33.49.

Here's where markets stand at mid-day:

-NYSE up 63.28 (+0.85%) to 7,524.44

-DJIA up 103.54 (+0.87%) to 11,938.97

-S&P 500 up 8.55 (+0.69%) to 1,246.45

-Nasdaq up 20.14 (+0.76%) to 2,660.48

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

Nikkei closed.

Hang Seng down 2.5%.

Shanghai Composite up 0.2%.

FTSE-100 up 0.6%.

DAX-30 up 3%.

MID-DAY NYSE INDEX WATCH

NYSE Energy up 1.4% at 12,508.69

NYSE Financial up 0.28% at 4,175.49

NYSE Health Care up 0.85% at 6,781.32

NYSE Arca Tech 100 up 1.04% at 1,117.14

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+) ANR (+12.0%) reports improved earnings.

(+) PSTI (+8.5%) jumps on positive study data.

(+) CVS (4.1) reports profit gain.

(+) DUK (+0.4%) beats with earnings, raises guidance.

(+) GSK (+1.5%) settles over Medicaid charges.

(+) QGEN (+5.9%) beats with earnings, backs guidance.

(+) TDC (+1.0%) beats with results.

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

(-) AMZN (-0.3%) boosts digital library service.

(-) TSL (-1.9%) cuts shipment guidance.

(-) CECO (-13.6%) firm despite downgrade.

(-) SWIR (-14%) downgraded after evening earnings.

(-) M (-0.9%) October same-store sales up 2.2%.

(-) TGT (-2.4%) same-store sales up 3.3%.

(-) DNDN (-35.9%) downgraded.

(-) LTD (-5.1%) down despite sales figures, raised guidance.

(-) ANF (-21%) down despite October sales gain.

(-) WBMD (-12.9%) downgraded.



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: AAPL , ING , MDVN , PG , TEVA

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