Mid-Day Update: Stocks Firmly Lower as Crude Prices, Employment Data Weigh on Investor Sentiment

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Here's where markets stand at mid-day:

-NYSE down 90.52 (-1.07%) to 8,374.93

-DJIA down 138.46 (-1.13%) to 12,119.74

-S&P 500 down 14.84 (-1.11%) to 1,316.13

-Nasdaq down 23.10 (-0.83%) to 2,775.31

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

Hang Seng up 1.24%

Nikkei up 1.02%

FTSE down 0.24%

MID-DAY NYSE INDEX WATCH

NYSE Energy down 0.54% at 14,124.34

NYSE Financial down 1.62% at 5,215.03

NYSE Health Care down 0.65% at 6,792.78

NYSE Arca Tech 100 down 0.88% at 1,151.95

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+) FL (+1.7%) upgraded.

(+) DLTR (+1.3%) upgraded.

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

(-) IBM (-1.2%) initiated at Outperform at CLSA.

(-) PFE (-0.9%) says rheumatoid arthritis drug meets primary endpoint.

(-) COF (-1.8%) upgraded.

(-) WMT (-0.3%) continues gain after announcing dividend hike late Thursday.

(-) C (-4.6%) downgraded.

(-) GS (-1.9%) downgraded.

(-) MRVL (-10.3%) continues evening decline that followed Q4 miss, flat revenue prediction.

(-) CERS (-11.9%) downgraded.

MARKET DIRECTION

Stocks are firmly entrenched in negative territory as rising oil prices and a smaller-than-expected increase in non-farm payrolls weigh on investor sentiment. Adding to the mix--as it has for over a month--is continued unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.

The U.S. added 192,000 nonfarm jobs last month, slightly lower than expectations. The unemployment rate fell to 8.9% from 9%, below the expected 9.1%. February's reading is the lowest rate since April 2009.

Losses this morning come after yesterday's strong session, which followed two signs of job market improvement - private-employment hiring and a drop in weekly unemployment benefit applications. The Dow closed up some 190 points, or 1.6%, on Thursday, its largest one-day move in some three months. The Dow and the S&P 500 are up on the week.

In company news:

Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ ) shares are down 0.26% after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration today released a warning to women of child-bearing age that JNJ's epilepsy drug Topamax can increase the risk of birth defects around the mouth. A higher rate of cleft lip and cleft palate occurred in babies whose mothers were taking the drug during the first trimester, according to data collected from a registry of pregnant women.

Shares of Apple ( AAPL ) are down after a Bloomberg report late yesterday that the computer maker is in negotiations with music companies such as Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI to allow iTunes customers to have simpler access to music they've purchased across a number of devices. An agreement could be announced by mid-year, the report said.

Toyota Motor ( TM ) is down after Standard & Poor's slashed its credit rating, concluding that the company's profitability is weak and its pace of recovery is slower than Japanese rivals. The company also remains under pressure from higher raw materials costs, rising gasoline prices and a strong yen. S&P dropped the rating to AA- from AA, but it still outdistances auto industry competitors, according to MarketWatch.

Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. ( GS ) and Citigroup Inc. ( C ) shares are down after Bank of America Merrill Lynch downgraded the stocks to "neutral" from "buy," according to a MarketWatch report. Bank of America Merrill Lynch reportedly said it expects the two companies' 2011 Q1 results to be weak.

Pfizer (PFE) says the ORAL Sync Phase 3 study (A3921046) of tofacitinib being studied in moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA), met its primary endpoints by showing statistically significant changes versus placebo in reducing signs and symptoms of RA.

Meanwhile, Infosys Technologies Ltd. (INFY) is lower after issuing its outlook. It forecast an 18% to 20% gain in revenue in the next fiscal year, driven by the banking and financial services sector. It also expects operating margins of 20% to 22% in fiscal 2012, which starts in April. Infosys is India's second largest software firm. It plans to hire a gross 8,000 staff in the next fiscal year.

Shares of Deutsche Bank (DB) are down after CEO Josef Ackermann said financial firms are growing more worried about splintered regulatory regulations posing a risk to world's economy and financial system. At a speech on behalf of the Institute of International Finance, Bloomberg quoted Ackermann as saying: "We are seeing actions by national authorities to develop their own regulatory approaches, or to add, or to modify the Basel capital agreements."

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) is down fractionally after concern about oil prices weighing on the economy and consumer spending overshadowed a 21% increase in its annual dividend. Wal-Mart's dividend will be $1.46 per year in fiscal 2012, up from $1.21. In all, the company will pay $5.2 billion to shareholders. The move brings its yield to 2.81%, according to the AP.

ADRs of Total SA (TOT) are fractionally higher on a Wall Street Journal report that the French energy company will pay $4 billion for a minority stake in OAO Novatek, which is Russia's largest independent natural-gas producer.

In earnings news:

--Cadence Pharmaceuticals (CADX) said late Thursday Q4 net loss was $0.33 per share, better than the Thomson Reuters mean for a loss of $0.34.

--Cerus Corporation (CERS) said late Thursday Q4 sales were $6.461 million, up from $5.474 million a year ago. Net loss was $0.06 per share, smaller than the $0.13 loss a year earlier.

--Cowen Group (COWN) says Q4 GAAP net income was $0.06, down from a year ago. GAAP sales were $69.7 million, flat from a year ago. The Thomson Reuters mean, usually less items, was for $0.06 per share on sales of $73.88 million.

Commodities are higher. April gold contracts are up $16, or 1.09%, to $1,432 an ounce while April crude oil contacts are up 1.74%, or $1.81, at $103.72 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 2.28% to $42.12 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is up $0.25, or 0.38%, to $5.07.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 1.15% to $139.68. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 1.34% to $60.67. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 3.25% to $34.50.



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 , C , GS , JNJ , TM

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