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
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 (
) 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
Shares of Apple (
) 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 (
) 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
Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (
) and Citigroup Inc. (
) 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
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
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
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.
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