Stocks Gain at Mid-Day; Deal News, Unemployment Data Supporting Gains

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Stocks are advancing as the latest government employment data shows a slow--but steady--gain in new jobs and a decline in the unemployment rate. While the payroll increase topped analyst expectations, it fell short of the number of jobs added last month. Construction spending fell to an 11-year low and a key manufacturing index was essentially even for the month.

In employment, nonfarm payrolls increased by 230,000 jobs last month, beating the 185,000 increase expected by economists surveyed by MarketWatch. But the number fell just short of 240,000 jobs added in February. The unemployment rate fell to a seasonally-adjusted 8.8% in March from 8.9% in February, the lowest rate since March 2009. Economists had been expecting the jobless rate to inch up to 9.0%.

Meanwhile, the March ISM manufacturing index fell to 61.2 last month from 61.4 in February. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast the index to dip to 61.3 last month from 61.4% in February.

Construction spending fell 1.4% to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of $760.6 billion in February, the lowest level in more than 11 years, the Commerce Department reported, adding a down note to otherwise positive economic data this morning.

In company news:

Shares of NASDAQ OMX ( NDAQ ) are higher after NASDAQ and IntercontinentalExchange ( ICE ) made a joint proposal to acquire NYSE Euronext ( NYX ) for $42.50 in cash and stock per NYSE Euronext share. NYSE Euronext confirmed today that it has received an unsolicited proposal from Nasdaq to acquire all outstanding shares of NYSE Euronext for a combination of $14.24 in cash, 0.4069 shares of Nasdaq stock and 0.1436 shares of ICE stock per NYSE Euronext share. The move trumps a previous offer from Germany's Deutsche Boerse AG.

A lawsuit filed by a Pennsylvania pension fund accused officials at Cephalon ( CEPH ) of failing to act in the best interest of shareholders regarding the $5.7 billion buyout offer by Valeant Pharmaceuticals ( VRX ), Bloomberg reports. Cephalon said yesterday that it will look at the bid next week.

Shares of American Apparel (APP) are down after the Los Angeles-based clothing company said the shortfall in its cash may force it to sekk bankruptcy protection, Bloomberg reported. Two American Apparel board members from lender Lion Capital resigned in order to evaluate the investment, the report said, citing a regulatory filing.

Lucas Energy (LEI) is up after it says it entered into a Joint Venture agreement with Marathon Oil (East Texas) LP, a subsidiary of Marathon Oil Corporation (MRO) to develop the Eagle Ford and Buda formations in Wilson County, Texas. The Marathon affiliate has acquired 50% of the leasehold interest rights, representing approximately 1,000 net acres (below the base of the Austin Chalk formation) held by Lucas in a majority of Lucas' leases in Wilson County, Texas.

Office Depot (ODP) is down after the company announced that the Internal Revenue Service has denied the company's claim to carry back certain tax losses to prior tax years under economic stimulus-based tax legislation enacted in 2009.

In earnings news:

--Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. (KKD) plummets 17.05% to $5.84, on lower-than-expected 2010 Q4 results. In yesterday's after-hour trade, the doughnut chain reported a Q1 loss per share of $0.02 on sales of $91.7 million. The Street view is for EPS of $0.04 on sales of $92.55 million.

--Xyratex Ltd. (XRTX) is down after its 2011 Q2 guidance came in below Street estimates. The provider of data storage and network technology expects to earn up to 6 cents a share in the second quarter, lower than the Street estimate of 27 cents a share.

Commodities are mixed. June gold contracts are down $12, or 0.83%, to $1,428 an ounce while May crude oil contacts are up 0.94%, or $0.99, at $107.71 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 1.06% to $43.05 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is down $0.12, or 1.04%, to $11.38.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is down 0.59% to $139.03. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is down 0.45% to $59.83. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is down 0.16% to $36.73.



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: CEPH , ICE , NDAQ , NYX , VRX

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