Mid-Morning Market Update: Markets Open Higher; Staples Plans To Close 225 Stores

By Jake L'Ecuyer,

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Following the market opening Thursday, the Dow traded up 0.47 percent to 16,437.69 while the NASDAQ gained 0.20 percent to 4,366.53. The S&P also rose, surging 0.38 percent to 1,880.87.

Leading and Lagging Sectors In trading on Thursday, basic materials shares were relative leaders, up on the day by about 0.83 percent. Among the leading sector stocks, gains came from Axiall (NYSE: AXLL ), Materion (NYSE: MTRN ), Huntsman (NYSE: HUN ) and Joy Global (NYSE: JOY ).

Utilities sector was the leading decliner in the US market today. Top decliners in the sector included Artesian Resources (NASDAQ: ARTNA ), off 2.2 percent, and South Jersey Industries (NYSE: SJI ), down 1.2 percent.

Top Headline Staples (NASDAQ: SPLS ) reported weaker-than-expected fiscal fourth-quarter earnings and announced its plans to close 225 stores by 2015. Staples posted its quarterly earnings of $212 million, or $0.33 per share, up from $90 million, or $0.14 per share, in the year-earlier quarter. On an adjusted basis, it earned $0.33 per share, versus analysts' estimates of $0.38 per share. Its sales fell to $5.87 billion from $6.57 billion. For the first quarter, Staples projects its sales to drop from the year-earlier period. It also expects earnings of $0.17 to $0.22 per share. Staples also announced its plans to pay a Q1 dividend of $0.12 per share.

Equities Trading UP Sangamo Biosciences (NASDAQ: SGMO ) shot up 16.57 percent to $22.86 as the company announced that first-in-man study of genome editing using Sangamo's ZFN technology published In NEJM.

Shares of Agios Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AGIO ) got a boost, shooting up 10.15 percent to $34.85 after the company reported quarterly results.

Stage Stores (NYSE: SSI ) was also up, gaining 9.82 percent to $21.69 after the company reported Q4 results and announced the sale of its Steele's off-price division to a new retail unit of Hilco Global.

Equities Trading DOWN Shares of Staples (NASDAQ: SPLS ) were down 11.42 percent to $11.87 after the company reported weaker-than-expected fiscal fourth-quarter earnings and announced its plans to close 225 stores by 2015.

The Children's Place Retail Stores (NASDAQ: PLCE ) shares tumbled 9.91 percent to $49.28 after the company reported an 18% drop in its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings and issued a weak outlook.

Costco Wholesale (NASDAQ: COST ) was down, falling 2.77 percent to $113.24 after the company reported a 15% drop in its fiscal second-quarter profit.

Commodities In commodity news, oil traded down 0.64 percent to $100.80, while gold traded down 0.34 percent to $1,335.80.

Silver traded down 0.36 percent Thursday to $21.20, while copper rose 0.11 percent to $3.21.

Eurozone European shares were mostly higher today.

The Spanish Ibex Index rose 0.98 percent, while Italy's FTSE MIB Index surged 0.74 percent.

Meanwhile, the German DAX dropped 0.27 percent and the French CAC 40 climbed 0.44 percent while U.K. shares gained 0.09 percent.

Economics US jobless claims dropped by 26,000 to 323,000 in the week ended March 1. However, economists were projecting claims to total 336,000 in the week.

US productivity rose at an annual rate of 1.8% in the fourth quarter, versus a prior reading of a 3.2% gain.

Unit-labor costs declined 0.1%, versus a prior reading of a 1.6% drop.

Announced layoffs fell to 42,000 in February, versus 45,000 in January, outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported. US factory orders declined 0.70% in January, versus economists' expectations for a 0.50% drop.

The Treasury is set to auction 3-and 6-month bills. The Treasury will also auction 3-and 10-year notes.

Data on money supply will be released at 4:30 p.m. ET.

© 2014 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

This article appears in: Investing , Economy , Futures
Referenced Stocks: ARTNA , COST , PLCE , SGMO , SPLS

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