Stocks Edge Lower in Tight Trading Range as Investors Await Employment Report


Stocks are choppy and trending lower at mid-day as employment data continues to remain in focus on a data-heavy week, culminating in a report on nonfarm payrolls and the unemployment rate for March due tomorrow.

The US Department of Labor said the number of people who filed initial jobless benefits applications declined by 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 388,000 in the week ended March 26. Later today, the Chicago purchasing managers index for March and factory orders for February will hit.

In other economic data, new orders for US factory-manufactured goods declined by 0.1% in February, the Commerce Department reported. Economists had expected overall US factory orders to rise by 0.5%.

Also, the cost of a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage edged up to an average 4.86% from 4.81% the week before, according to Freddie Mac, which tracks rates. While the average rate remained below 5%, it is well off its low of 4.17% in November. Low rates have been a saving grace for the battered housing market, but strict underwriting standards for mortgages have throttled many prospective buyers.

In other company news:

RXi Pharmaceuticals ( RXII ) says it will buy Apthera for approximately 4.8 million in RXII shares. Apthera's stockholders will also be entitled to contingent payments based on the achievement of certain development and commercial milestones relating to Apthera's NeuVax product candidate.

Las Vegas Sands ( LVS ) is down following reports that Sands China, the company's Macau unit, is under investigation by the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission, according to a Reuters wire report. The inquiry relates to alleged breaches of regulations, according to the report.

Microsoft Corp. ( MSFT ) shares are tipping lower and the Silicon Vally / San Jose Business Journal has filed a complaint against Google ( GOOG ) with the European Commission, the EU's antitrust regulator. "Our filing today focuses on a pattern of actions that Google has taken to entrench its dominance in the markets for online search and search advertising to the detriment of European consumers," Microsoft said on its company blog.

DryShips ( DRYS ) reports Q4 EPS of $0.25, a penny shy of the Street view on Thomson Reuters. Revenue was about $216 million, below expectations of $221 million.

BP Plc (BP) shares are trading lower as lawyers suing the oil giant said in a court filing that the company had used chemical dispersants to fight last year's oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico and should compensate the cleanup crew and residents harmed by those toxic chemicals, according to AP.

Also, shares of Rite Aid (RAD) are down 1.9% in mid-session trading after the drug store chain said March same store sales fell 0.1%.

Commodities are higher. June gold contracts are up $15, or 1.04%, to $1,440 an ounce while May crude oil contacts are up 1.95%, or $2.04, at $106.31 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 1.93% to $42.46 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is down $0.14, or 1.31%, to $11.32.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 1.17% to $140.30. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 1.32% to $60.43. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 1.09% to $36.93.

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: DRYS , GOOG , LVS , MSFT , RXII

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