Stocks Flat to Just Higher Following Wobbly Opening; Mixed Company Guidance Weighs

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Stocks traded near even through the first half of the regular session even though yesterday's tax deal lifted expectations that economic growth would continue. Concern mounted that the tax deal would add to the federal deficits, pushing the price of U.S. debt lower and the yields higher today. Adding to the mix were disappointing outlooks from several big consumer names.

Also, the U.S. Energy Department said that inventories of crude oil fell 3.82 million barrels to 355.9 million. Supplies were forecast to drop by 1.4 million barrels. Gasoline inventories rose 3.81 million barrels to 214 million and distillate inventories rose as well in the week ended Dec. 3. No other economic reports are due for release today.

In company-specific news:

Shares of Walt Disney Co. ( DIS ) and Netflix ( NFLX ) are down following a pre-market announcement that the two inked a new licensing agreement that will allow Netflix to stream hundreds of episodes from the ABC Television Network, Disney Channel and ABC Family over the Internet. Netflix has made more media--from films to TV--available to consumers through TV sets with Web connections. That has lessened the company's dependence on its mail-order business.

Shares of Omnicare ( OCR ) are higher after the company named industry veteran John Figueroa--who most recently served as the president of U.S. pharmaceutical company McKesson ( MCK )--as its new CEO. McKesson will take over for James Shelton, who was serving on an interim basis after the company's longtime CEO resigned.

Citigroup ( C ) and US Bancorp. (USB) signed a binding agreement to establish a joint venture creating a merchant services company that will offer a full suite of payment solutions to the Brazilian marketplace, the companies said in a joint statement. In their statement, the companies note that since 2005, Brazil's credit-card market has grown at a 20% plus rate annually.

Shares of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) are just higher as the company said it is making a recommended cash offer for all for Crucell N.V., according to a statement from the company. The bid--valued at $2.3 billion-- will help to give J&J a significant foothold in the vaccine market. Crucell's vaccine's protect children against disease ranging from diphtheria to whooping cough.

Shares of Salesforce.com (CRM) are up after the company said before the bell that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Heroku, a cloud application platform for writing Ruby-based applications, for approximately $212 million in cash. The transaction is expected to be completed in salesforce.com's fiscal fourth quarter ending Jan. 31, 2011. The acquisition is expected to have no impact to salesforce.com's fiscal fourth quarter revenue. However, the company expects the acquisition to reduce non-GAAP EPS by approximately $0.02 in the quarter ending Jan. 31, 2011.

American International Group (AIG) and the U.S. Treasury Department are planning a stock sale that could total more than $10 billion, according to Reuters. The move is another step toward extricating the government from its stake in AIG, which it bailed out at the height of the financial crisis. At the end of last month the insurance giant sold bonds for the first time since the government bailed the company out in 2008. Proceeds from that sale will be used for general corporate purposes.

Shares of Texas Instruments (TXN) are just higher after saying it expects Q4 revenue in the range of $3.43 to $3.57 billion, within its previous guidance range of $3.36 to $3.64 billion. The Street is at $3.49 billion. EPS is seen at $0.61 to $0.65 per share, vs. previous guidance of $0.59 to $0.67 per share. The Street view is $0.63 per share.

Shares of Costco (COST) are lower after the company's pre-market report that Q1 revenue came in at $19.2 billion, above the Street consensus of $18.8 billion. EPS was $0.71, vs. expectations of $0.69 per share.

Home Depot (HD) says based on its year-to-date performance and expectations for the remainder of the fiscal year, the company now expects sales to be up approximately 2.3% for the year.

McDonald's (MCD) announced global comparable sales growth of 4.8% in November. Performance by segment was as follows: U.S. up 4.9%; Europe up 4.9%; and Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa up 2.4%.

Shares of Spectra Energy (SE) are just lower after the natural gas infrastructure firm forecast 2011 profit about 15 percent higher than its current-year target. Still the project was just below Wall Street estimates. The company is projecting a 2011 profit of $1.65 a share and sees itself beating its current-year target of $1.42 a share. The Street sees a 2010 profit of $1.48 and a 2011 profit of $1.68.

Commodities are down. February gold contracts are down $30, or 2.09%, to $1,380 an ounce while January crude oil contacts are down 0.95%, or $0.84, at $87.88 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 0.32% to $37.92 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is up 2.8% to $6.23.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is down 1.2% to $134.85. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is down 1.49% to $61.45. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is down 1.3% to $27.71.



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.

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This article appears in: Investing , Commodities

Referenced Stocks: C , DIS , MCK , NFLX , OCR

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