Stocks made a brief run into positive territory but have fallen
back into the red at mid-day ahead of President Obama's speech on
jobs to a joint session of Congress. New data released this morning
showed a rise in jobless claims and set the tone for Obama's
speech, which will outline a new spending to boost hiring in the
Jobless claims rose to 414,000 from 412,000. Initial claims from
two weeks ago were revised up from an original reading of 409,000.
The average of new claims over the past four weeks, meanwhile, rose
by 3,750 to 414,750, the highest level since mid-July.
Also reported this morning, the Commerce Department said the
trade deficit narrowed to a seasonally adjusted $44.8 billion in
July from $51.6 billion in June, a decline of 13.1% -- the largest
percentage decline since February 2009.
Obama is slated to deliver a televised speech on jobs to
Congress after markets have closed, at 7:00 p.m. ET. The president
is expected to propose an extension of the expiring payroll-tax
cuts and push for new spending on infrastructure.
Global investors are awaiting word from Washington on the
possibility of more help for the economy. Federal Reserve Chairman
Ben Bernanke is also slated to speak.
The cost of a 30-year fixed mortgage hit a new record for the
third consecutive week, dropping to 4.35%, according to
Bankrate.com's weekly national survey. The average 15-year fixed
mortgage remained at 3.48% while the larger jumbo 30-year fixed
rate set a new low of 4.86%.
Oil prices have turned lower, slipping below $89 a barrel,
despite a new Energy Information Administration report that U.S.
stockpiles fell sharply last week by 4 million barrels, three times
as much as analysts predicted.
In company news:
Shares of Johnson & Johnson (
) are higher in regular-session trade, sitting just off session
highs, after Bloomberg reported that the drug and medical products
maker, along with C.R. Bard, may be required to submit additional
safety data on a surgical mesh the resulted in about 500 lawsuits.
A panel of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is meeting to
discuss whether the mesh is safe and effective.
Shares of Cisco Systems (
) are holding firm and building on pre-market gains after the stock
was upgraded to Buy from Hold at Auriga. The price target for the
firm was raised to $20 from $16. In his note, Auriga analyst
Sandeep Shyamsukha wrote that the networking equipment maker is
"now well positioned to gain market share in key segments like
switching, routing and servers in both enterprise and service
provider segments from competitors," MarketWatch report on the
Shares of Pfizer (
) are higher after the company said its experimental pill to treat
rheumatoid arthritis showed the medicine was as effective as
) injectable Humira drug, but more patients taking it had serious
Shares of Bank of America (
) are down in regular-session trading as the company is slated to
close up to 600 branches as a part of its continued reorganization
efforts, reports TheStreet.com.
Shares of Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) are higher Reuters reports the
company has hired the former head of the largest food retailer in
Russia, called X5, citing a company spokeswoman. The executive will
be a senior vice-president and chief leverage officer. The move is
seen as a sign that Russia has yet to abandon its plans to enter
the Russian market.
Commodities are mixed. December gold contracts are up 2.41% to
$1,861 an ounce while October crude oil contacts are down 0.67% to
$88.78 a barrel.
In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is down 0.12%
to $34.67 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is up 1.71%,
In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 2.1% to
$180.85. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 2.05% to $66.77.
iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 1.95% to $41.32.
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