Mid-Day Update: Stocks Firmly Lower as Europe Worries Weigh; Consumer Sentiment Rises

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Stocks are down in mid-day trading as Europe's debt crisis retakes center stage amid concern over the cost to insure European government debt as it jumped to a record high, according to reports.

A 6 billion euro German bond auction attracted only 3.889 billion euros, MarketWatch noted, leaving the central bank to buy the remaining unsold bonds. The results of the sale - coupled with mounting fears that the debt contagion that started with Greece - shook investor confidence and sparked a sell-off across the globe.

Stateside, U.S. consumers have a more positive outlook, with the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment rising to 64.1 this month from 60.9 in October. Still, that was less than the rise to 64.5 predicted by economists polled in a Bloomberg survey.

In U.S. economic data, new applications for unemployment benefits rose 2,000 to 393,000, according the U.S. Labor Department. Economists had expected claims to come in at 390,000 for the week, according to a MarketWatch poll. However, the four-week moving average, which smooths out some of the volatility, fell 3,259 to 394,250.

Also, the Commerce Department said demand for durable good declined 0.7% last month due to declining demand for commercial aircraft, according to media reports. That is better than the 1.5% drop economists had expected to see, according to MarketWatch data.

Meanwhile, consumers spent more last month, with personal spending rising 0.1% while personal incomes rose 0.4%. according to other Commerce Department figures.

In mid-day company news:

Diamond Foods ( DMND ) shares are down over 15% as the company is the subject of several law firms filing class action lawsuits on behalf of stockholders related to the company's now-delayed purchase of Pringles.

Merck & Co. ( MRK ) has decided to settle criminal and civil charges filed against it by the U.S. Justice Department for allegedly promoting its Vioxx for an unapproved use, with the payment of about $950 million in fines. In the case, MRK was accused of promoting Vioxx as a rheumatoid arthritis treatment before it had been approved for the condition by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Goldman Sachs ( GS ) analysts are sounding an optimistic tone as TheStreet.com reports they expect all banks under their coverage to pass the Federal Reserves 2012 stress tests. Goldman reportedly sees American Express, Wells Fargo ( WFC ), Discover Financial ( DFS ) State Street (STT) and Northern Trust (NTRS) to be best positioned, the report said.

Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) shares are higher while Bloomberg reports that the chairman of South Africa's Massmart said the court hearing opposition to WMT's takeover of Massmart will make a sound ruling by early next year.

ADRs of Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) are down while Bloomberg the oil company is ahead in the hunt for oil reserves in the Arctic - thought to have the equivalent of a fifth of proven global reserves, according to investment bank Sanford Bernstein. RDS.A has invested $1 billion ahead of a drilling campaign due to start next year, the report said.

Weekly government data showed a surprise decline in oil supplies. The Energy Information Administration said crude stockpiles fell 6.2% while Platts analysts had expected inventories to remain unchanged. That moderated crude declines, but the January contract was still lower.

Commodities are down as January gold contracts are down 0.81% to $1,689 an ounce while January crude oil contacts are down 1.42% to $96.62 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is down 1.6% to $37.23 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is down 1.3%, to $7.71.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is down 0.8% to $164.08. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is down 2.5% to $55.60. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is down 3.2% to $30.89.

Here's where markets stand at mid-day:

-NYSE down 153.91 (-2.2%) to 6,944.13

-DJIA down 172.36 (-1.5%) to 11,321.36

-S&P 500 down 18.88 (-1.59%) to 1,169.16

-Nasdaq down 45.20 (-1.79%) to 2,476.06

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

Nikkei down 0.4%

Hang Seng down 2.1%

Shanghai Composite down 0.7%

FTSE-100 down 0.7%

DAX-30 plus 0.1%

MID-DAY NYSE INDEX WATCH

NYSE Energy down 2.5% at 11,506.86

NYSE Financial down 2.5% at 3,692.99

NYSE Health Care down 1.3% at 6,450.44

NYSE Arca Tech 100 down 1.9% at 1,035.31

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

(-) BAC, (-4.0%) lower due to Federal Reserve's planned stress tests

(-) C, (-4.4%) lower due to Federal Reserve's planned stress tests

(-) PTNR, (-3.8%) announces earnings miss, planned lay offs.

(-) NOK, (-2.3%) announces the launch of an extensive global restructuring program.

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+) DE, (+3.8%) reports Q4 earnings beat.

(+) AEZS, (+0.3%) inks licensing pact.



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.

Copyright (C) 2014 MTNewswires.com. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited.


This article appears in: Investing , Commodities

Referenced Stocks: DFS , DMND , GS , MRK , WFC

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