Midday Update: Stocks Pass on Weak Housing Starts, Hold Gains On Earnings, Acquisitions, FOMC Minutes

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Wall Street wrote off weakness in the housing market and is keeping equity prices little changed Wednesday on positive earnings and a $690 million deal for jewelry retailer Zales ( ZLC ). Stocks were under pressure after the Commerce Department said housing starts tumbled 16% during January, although the data was dismissed as weather-related with traders instead shifting their focus on upbeat earnings and expectations minutes from the last Federal Reserve meetings due out later today will discount recent sluggish economic data as abnormally biased by the severe winter weather.

Also today, the S&P 500 is flirting with its record high on strength in energy stocks, while the Nasdaq Composite lags on profit-taking after touching a new 13-year high on Tuesday.

January housing starts tumbled to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 880,000, down 16.0% from an upwardly revised 1.048 mln in December. Permits fell 5.0% to 937,000 from 991,000 in December, revised upward from 986,000.

Also, producer prices were up a benign 0.2% last month, the Labor Department said, while the core rate excluding energy and food also rose 0.2% last month. The Street had been expecting a rise of 0.1% and 0.2%, respectively.

European equities are slightly higher to unchanged, dropping early selling pressure in concert with their U.S. counterparts. Gains were limited, however, by an increase in the UK jobless rate

Crude oil was up $0.31 to $102.74 per barrel. Natural gas was up $0.12 to $4.88 per 1 million BTU. Gold was down $5.10 to $1,319.00 an ounce, while silver was down $0.06 to $21.84 an ounce. Copper was up $0.01 to $3.30 per pound.

Among energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund was up 0.30% to $36.79 with the United States Natural Gas Fund was up 3.13% to $27.02. Amongst precious-metal funds, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF was down 1.01% to 26.14 while SPDR Gold Shares was down 0.19% to $127.16. The iShares Silver Trust was down 0.57% to $21.01.

Here's where the markets stand at mid-day:

NYSE Composite Index down 11.99 (-0.12%) to 10,307.13

Dow Jones Industrial Average down 28.19 (-0.17%) to 16,102.21

S&P 500 down 4.26 (-0.23%) to 1,836.50

Nasdaq Composite Index down 21.16 (-0.50%) to 4,251.62

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

Nikkei 225 Index down 0.52%

Hang Seng Index up 0.34%

Shanghai China Composite Index up 1.11%

FTSE 100 Index unchanged

CAC 40 up 0.24%

DAX unchanged

NYSE SECTOR INDICES NYSE

Energy Sector Index up 0.50%

NYSE Financial Sector Index down 0.45%

NYSE Healthcare Sector Index down 0.20%

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+) ZLC Signet Jewelers ( SIG ) makes $690 offer for Zales

(+) ZBRA Reports better than expected earnings and Q1 guidance

(+) UCTT Beat Q4 earnings estimates

(+) CRDS Filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Cisco ( CSCO ), Quantum ( QTM ) and NetApp ( NTAP )

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

(-) GNK Entered into a limited waiver of default under the $100 million term loan facility.

(-) OAKS Priced a public offering of 3 million common shares at a discounted $11.30/share



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: ZLC , SIG , CSCO , QTM , NTAP

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