Stocks are on firmer footing this afternoon after better-than-expected durable goods orders and Fed Chair Janet Yellen's testimony to the Senate Banking Committee offset earlier weakness tied to geo-political turmoil in Eastern Europe. Retail stocks are extending their gains after JC Penney ( JCP ) and Best Buy ( BBY ) both reported better than expected Q4 earnings, keeping the S&P 500 just below its record high.
New orders for manufactured durable goods fell 1.0% in January, better than the consensus estimate for a 1.5% decline. But although December orders were revised downward -- from -4.3% to -5.3% -- the data was still considered positive as January durable goods ex-transportation orders rose 1.1% last month.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits for the week ended February 22 increased 14,000 to 348,000. But once again, this number was again skewed by weather conditions as new claims were delayed after weeks of poor weather, causing an influx of new filings.
The escalating political crisis in Ukraine permeated European markets early on with weakness exacerbated by bearish EU-zone data on GDP, consumer confidence and unemployment. But equities recovered in tandem with modest strength in the U.S., bringing the UK's FTSE-100 back into the plus column at the close.
Crude oil was down $0.36 to $102.23 per barrel. Natural gas was down $0.02 to $4.52 per 1 million BTU. Gold was up $5.30 to $1,333.40 an ounce, while silver was down $0.07 to $21.36 an ounce. Copper was down $0.01 to $3.20 per pound.
Among energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund was down 0.22% with the United States Natural Gas Fund was down 0.36% to $25.02. Amongst precious-metal funds, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF was up 1.11% to 26.33 while SPDR Gold Shares was up 0.22% to $128.41. The iShares Silver Trust was up 0.43% to $20.51.
Here's where the markets stand at mid-day:
NYSE Composite Index up 19.68 (+0.19%) to 10,369.64
Dow Jones Industrial Average up 27.74 (+0.17%) to 16,226.15
S&P 500 up 3.23 (+0.18%) to 1,848.39
Nasdaq Composite Index up 12.90 (+0.30%) to 4,304.97
Nikkei 225 Index down 0.32%
Hang Seng Index up 1.74%
Shanghai China Composite Index up 0.30%
FTSE 100 Index up 0.16%
CAC 40 down 0.01%
DAX down 0.68%
NYSE SECTOR INDICES
NYSE Energy Sector Index down 0.26%
NYSE Financial Sector Index up 0.20%
NYSE Healthcare Sector Index up 0.12%
(+) JCP (+23.00) Beat analyst estimates with a loss of $0.68 vs estimate of a loss of $0.76.
(+) MYL (+10.07%) Q4 earnings exceeded expectations.
(+) PEIX (+46.06%) Reported a gain of $0.54 per share beating estimates for a loss of $0.07.
(+) DANG (+18.05%) Swung to a Q4 profit, topping analyst estimates.
(-) INO (-8.31%) Plans a public offering of stock.
(-) CTRX (-11.46%) Q4 earnings miss views, same-store sales drop.
(-) CHS (-8.33%) Swung to a fiscal Q4 loss. posted earnings expectations as same-store sales fell and increased promotional activity hurt margins.
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