Stocks Down at Mid-Day Following Home Sales Data; Gold Slips Below $1,600 an Ounce


Stocks are lower after new data showed weaker-than-expected sales of existing homes last month, sapping early upside from a strong Apple Inc. ( AAPL ) earnings report.

June existing home sales slipped 0.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.77 million from 4.81 million in May, hitting a seven-month low. Economists polled by MarketWatch had anticipated a 4.9 million annual rate of sales.

Wall Street also cheered Apple ( AAPL ) results and signs of progress in Washington for debt-ceiling talks.

Stocks gained late Tuesday after President Obama said there had been "some progress" in talks with lawmakers about raising the U.S. government's debt limit. He offered favorable comments on a Senate plan that would cut $3.7 trillion from deficits over 10 years. Ratings firms have warned they could downgrade U.S. government debt.

Also providing support was news of an upcoming meeting Wednesday between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a day ahead of a closely-anticipated summit of euro-zone leaders in Brussels. The region continues to look for a solution to ward off a widespread debt crisis. Asian markets gained and Europe is trading higher.

In company news:

Shares of Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ ) are up after Dow Jones reported that the FDA is to consider additional uses for the pharma giant's drug Remicade. Dow Jones reported that a federal advisory panel on Thursday will consider a bid by a Johnson & Johnson unit to expand the use of its drug Remicade, which is currently approved for use in adult and pediatric Crohn's disease and other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis.

Shares of Amazon ( AMZN ) are up after the company today announced a non-exclusive licensing agreement with CBS Corp. ( CBS ) that will enable Amazon customers to stream television shows from CBS's library. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Shares of E-Trade Financial Corp. ( ETFC ) are up 15.29% to $14.93 after the company received a letter from Citadel LLC, its largest shareholder, requesting a shareholder meeting to explore maximizing shareholder value possibly through a sale of the company, MarketWatch reported citing a regulatory filing.

Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK) has announced that it has signed a new non-exclusive agreement with Roche Holding (RHHBY) for the global promotion of hepatitis drug VICTRELIS as part of a triple combination therapy regimen with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin. Under the terms of the agreement, Roche and Merck will work together in global markets, including Europe, Asia and Latin America, to educate physicians and patients about hepatitis C virus.

Shares of Dell Inc. (DELL) are higher after the computer maker said it will pay an undisclosed sum to buy privately held Force10 Networks Inc., a specialist in data centers. Dell valued the company at $200 million, based on trailing 12-month revenue, according to its release. In a Bloomberg report on the acquisition, Dell was said to also be considering acquiring Brocade Communications (BRCD).

Shares of Exxon Mobil (XOM) are up as Reuters reported that the petrochemicals giant is seeking partners for half of its interest in a coal bed methane project in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Exxon Mobil Corp. is offering a stake in three blocks where drilling results have so far been good.

An investor group lead by Carl Icahn has raised its offer for Clorox (CLX) to $80 per share from $76.50, according to news reports. Clorox management earlier this week said it would stick to its strategic plans, saying the $76.50 undervalued the company.

Shares of Apple ( AAPL ) are up 3.31% to $389.63 in morning trading, after the tech giant reported that its quarterly net income doubled. Sales of iPhones quadrupled in Asia, helping the company top analysts' earnings estimates. AAPL reported Q3 EPS of $7.79 per share on sales of $28.57 billion. The Street view was for EPS of $5.80 on sales of $24.92 billion.

In the latest earnings news:

--US Bancorp (USB) firms after it says it earned $0.60 per share in Q2, beating the mean Bloomberg estimate for $0.53.

--Piper Jaffray (PJC) says it earned $0.55 per share in Q2, above estimates for $0.49. Sales were $135.9 million, above forecasts for $131.33 million.

Commodities are mixed. August gold contracts are down 0.34% to $1,596 an ounce while Septmeber crude oil contacts are up 0.73% to $98.60 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is down 0.39% to $38.40 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is up 1.06%, to $11.24.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 0.61% at $155.60. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 1.14% to $60.36. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 1.08% to $38.42.

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 All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited.

This article appears in: Investing , Commodities

Referenced Stocks: AAPL , AMZN , CBS , ETFC , JNJ

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