Midday Update: Stocks Settling Into Narrow Range Prior to Earnings, December Retail Sales Reports This Week

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Stocks are flatlining today, trading in a razor-thin range ahead of economic data and Q4 earnings due out later this week. Lingering disappointment over Friday's weak jobs report was erased by Dow component Merck & Co. ( MRK ) issuing positive news about its Vorapaxar blood-clotting drug along with gains in the transportation sector following another drop in fuel prices.

But retail stocks are limiting any market advance following earnings warnings from Lululemon ( LULU ) and Express Inc ( EXPR ). And absent any fresh economic news today, Wall Street instead is looking forward to retail sales and industrial production data later in the week, neither of which are expected to match gains from the prior month.

Europe ignored the early pressure on U.S. equities and closed higher Monday, led by strength in the banking sector after regulators eased a Basel leverage-ratio rule. EU-zone economic data also was light, although Italy posted a much better than expected gain in industrial production, bumping up the DAX higher by nearly 0.3%.

Crude oil was down 0.78% to $91.94 per barrel. Natural gas was up $0.18 to $4.20 per 1 million BTU. Gold was up $1.10 to $1,247.90 an ounce, while silver was down $0.02 to $20.20 an ounce. Copper was down $0.02 to $3.33 per pound.

Among energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund was down 0.60% to $32.99 with the United States Natural Gas Fund was up 3.48% to $20.57. Amongst precious-metal funds, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF was up 0.86% to 22.19 while SPDR Gold Shares were up 0.29% to $120.61. The iShares Silver Trust was up 0.72% to $19.52.

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

NYSE Composite Index down 23.78 (-0.23%) to 10,347.35

Dow Jones Industrial Average down 53.05 (-0.32%) to 16,384.00

S&P 500 down 6.07 (-0.33%) to 1,836.30

Nasdaq Composite Index down 8.98 (-0.22%) to 4,165.69

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

Nikkei 225 Index up 0.20%

Hang Seng Index up 0.19%

Shanghai China Composite Index down 0.19%

FTSE 100 Index up 0.26%

CAC 40 up 0.30%

DAX up 0.39%

NYSE SECTOR INDICES

NYSE Energy Sector Index down 0.93%

NYSE Financial Sector Index down 0.09%

NYSE Healthcare Sector Index up 0.28%

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+) ALNY (+58.0%) Buys Merck & Co.'s ( MRK ) Sirna Therapeutics Inc. unit, also inking deal expanding its strategic agreement with Sanofi SA's ( SNY ) Genzyme subsidiary to develop and commercialize treatments for rare genetic diseases.

(+) TKMR, TKM.TO (+30.9%) Signs Option Agreement with Monsanto ( MON ), giving the crops chemical company a license to use Tekmira's proprietary delivery technology.

(+) BEAM (+24.12%) Agrees to be acquired by Japan's Suntory Holdings for $83.50 a share in cash, or about $16 bln overall.

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

(-) ICPT (-18.1%) The National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases says there was a build-up of "bad cholesterol" in patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis during testing of the company's liver-disease drug.

(-) LULU (-15.8%) Cuts its Q4 revenue forecast by $22 mln from its prior outlook to a new range of $513 mln to $518 mln following a drop in same-store sales compared to year-ago levels.

(-) PSMI (-9.5%) Downgrade to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank, which also cut its price target by $2 to $10 a 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.

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This article appears in: Investing , Commodities

Referenced Stocks: EXPR , LULU , MON , MRK , SNY

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