Stocks Higher at Mid-Session as Investors Follow Events In Egypt; Consumer Sentiment Rises

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Stocks are edging higher as events surrounding President Mubarak's resignation in Egypt continue to dominate headlines on the last trading day of the week. Investors are also watching the latest data on the economy that shows sentiment of American consumers rising this month to the highest level since June.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index rose to 75.1 from a reading last month of 74.2, MarketWatch reported.

This morning Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak announced his resignation and delegated Egypt's affairs to the army, reports The Wall Street Journal. The move comes a day after Mubarak said he would not step down, which escalated angry protests in that country. The reports out of Egypt are weighing on oil futures, which had risen over the past two weeks on concern that supply would be constrained due to the crisis in Egypt.

In company news:

Kips Bay Medical ( KIPS ) announced today that its initial public offering of 2.1 million shares has raised $16.5 million, before expenses. The offering was priced at the low end of the expected range, at $8 per share. The company also said that underwriters have a 45-day option to purchase an additional 309,375 shares to cover excess demand.

Shares of Warner Music Group ( WMG ) are higher after a report that it has attracted more than 20 interested parties since putting itself up for sale, the New York Post said, citing sources. WMG is asking bidders to submit their bids by month end, the Post said.

Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ ) shares are are just higher on a Reuters report that its Cordis medical devices unit is planning to lay off an unspecified number of sales staff and merge sales forces within its division. The cuts come as sales at the unit have fallen due to lower demand for its Cypher heart stent.

Nokia ( NOK ) is down by double digits, after it said it will adopt Microsoft's ( MSFT ) Windows Phone as its main smartphone platform and will forge other close ties with the U.S. software giant. According to news reports, Nokia said it expects 2011 and 2012 to be "transition years." In the long term, it targets an adjusted operating margin at the device division of 10%. It was just above 11% in the latest quarter.

Ford Motor (F) is higher after the company said it will pay off another $3 billion in debt in the first quarter of this year as it moves toward regaining its investment grade rating, Reuters reports. Standard & Poor's reportedly said the move will not change the BB-minus rating of Ford debt--three levels below investment grade.

Goldman Sachs (GS) shares are holding firm following a Bloomberg report, citing a former Treasury Dept. official, that Goldman chief Lloyd Blankfein sough US government approval on the pay of top employees despite not being required to do so.

General Electric (GE) announced today that it has acquired Wind Tower Systems, and intends to use its technology to build taller wind turbine towers at lower costs. According to the company, Wind Tower Systems' space-frame tower system technology enables developers to transport towers of 100 meters (328 feet) or more in sections. The towers can then be assembled on-site, which reduces installation costs by as much as 80%.

Children's Place (PLCE) says Susan Riley, Executive Vice President, Finance and Administration, is leaving. PLCE says it has started a search for a CFO and will eliminate the position of Executive Vice President, Finance and Administration.

In other earnings news:

--Chipotle (CMG) is up after reporting yesterday after the bell Q4 revenue of $482.5 million, better than the analyst consensus of $469 million on Thomson Reuters. EPS was $1.47, vs. expectations of $1.29. For full-year 2010, Chipotle posted net income of $179 million, up from $126.8 million in 2009, on revenue of $1.84 billion, up from $1.52 billion, according to Reuters.

--Tata Motors (TTM) reported consolidated net profit of 24.24 billion rupees ($530 million) for the fiscal Q3, up from 6.5 billion rupees a year ago, Reuters reports. Consolidated revenue rose 22% from a year earlier to 316.85 billion rupees, the story said. A Reuters poll had forecast net profit of 21.86 billion rupees for the quarter on net sales of 298.6 billion.

--Discovery Communications (DISCA) posted its fourth quarter results today, saying that its earnings increased because of TV advertising sales growth across its media business in the latter part of 2010.

Commodities are lower. April gold contracts are down $2, or 0.16%, to $1,360 an ounce, while March crude oil contacts are down 1.03%, or $0.88, at $85.86 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is down 1.45% to $36.01 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is down 1.11% to $5.33.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is down 0.3% to $132.45. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is down 0.43% to $55.69. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is down 1.02% to $29.18.

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

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This article appears in: Investing , Commodities
Referenced Symbols: JNJ , MSFT , NOK ,

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