Stocks Higher as Investors Eye Earnings News, China Monetary Policy Move


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Stocks are higher at the session's half as investors eyed more deal news and a steady stream of earnings reports issued before the opening bell. Attention to international developments shifted from Egypt to China, which made further moves to tighten lending there.

All is quiet on the economic data front with no major U.S. economic reports scheduled for release. But the People's Bank of China influenced trading early after it raised its benchmark lending and deposit rates by 25 basis points, triggering concerns about inflation, according to local media reports.

In company news:

Shares of McDonald's ( MCD ) are higher after the company said U.S. same-store sales rose 3.1% last month, with Europe up 7% and Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa up 5.2%. Microsoft ( MSFT ) shares are higher on a Bloomberg report that the software giant is planning to shake up management further as it looks to add senior product executives with an engineering background. Personnel changes could be announced as early as this month, the report said.

ConocoPhillips ( COP ) has completed the sale of its shares in LUKOIL, Russia's second largest oil firm, according to Reuters. ConocoPhillips has sold over 6% of its LUKOIL shares in the open market since September 26, 2010 Conoco has sold over 6 percent. It announced the sale of its entire 20% stake in LUKOIL in the summer of 2010 in order to use the funds to buy back shares.

Shares of Citigroup ( C ) are near the flatline as the bank settles fraud cases brought by borrowers who accused the bank of filing fraudulent mortgage documents, Bloomberg reports. Citi settled or lost at least five such claims in 2010, the report says. The most recent settlement involved a bankrupt homeowner who contested Citi's use of a mortgage assignment, which shows the transfer of ownership of a mortgage, the report said.

Kindred Healthcare ( KND ) are up sharply as the The Wall Street Journal reports that it acquired RehabCare Group for close to $900 million in cash and stock. RehabCare owns and operates 34 facilities, the Journal reported. It also manages rehab services in more than 1,250 locations across the United States.

In earnings news:

--Entergy (ETR) reports Q4 earnings of $1.26 on an as-reported basis and $1.30 per share on an operational basis. The Street view was $1.24 per share. Revenue was $2.53 bln vs. expectations of $2.76 bln.

--Beazer Homes USA (BZH) reports a Q1 loss of $0.66 per share compared to income of $1.17 a year earlier and deeper than the Thomson Reuters mean analyst estimate for a loss of $0.46. Revenue fell 48% to $110.3 million. The Street looked for $164.3 million.

--Sara Lee (SLE) reports Q2 adjusted EPS was $0.24, down from $0.27 per share in the year ago quarter. Sales were $2.3 bln, down 0.4% from the year ago period. The Street view was $0.25 per share in earnings on sales of $2.52 bln.

--Teva (TEVA) reports Q4 sales of $4.4 bln, up 16% from the year ago quarter but below the analyst consensus of $4.6 bln on Thomson Reuters. Non-GAAP EPS was $1.25 per share, up from year ago levels but below expectations of $1.28 per share.

--Toyota Motor (TM) raised its full-year operating profit forecast to 550 billion yen ($6.68 billion) from 380 billion yen, after it posted an April-December operating profit of 422.19 billion yen. A Thomson Reuters forecast had predicted a full-year operating profit of 489 billion yen.

--McAfee (MFE) says Q4 sales were $550 million, more than the Thomson Reuters mean for $545.04 million. Non-GAAP EPS were $0.67, $0.02 below estimates.

Commodities are higher. April gold contracts are up $19, or 1.43%, to $1,368 an ounce while March crude oil contacts are up 0.38%, or $0.33., at $87.82 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 0.46% to $36.83 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is down 0.72% to $5.55.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 1.30% to $133.39. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 2.09% to $57.27. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 2.65% to $29.40.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Copyright (C) 2014 All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited.

This article appears in: Investing , Commodities
More Headlines for: C , COP , KND , MCD , MSFT

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