Stocks Holding Gains as Consumer Sentiment, Narrower Trade Deficit Provide Support


Stocks are holding gains in mid-day trading after new data shows consumers have a brighter outlook on the economy, but not quite as bright as economists had expected, and the U.S. trade gap narrowed more than expected.

Consumer sentiment in the U.S. rose to its highest level since June when the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan reported this morning that the preliminary December reading for consumer sentiment came in at 74.2, up from 71.6 in November. Economists expect the index to rise to 72.9 in December, according to a MarketWatch poll.

Before the bell this morning, a new report showed the U.S. trade deficit narrowed more than economists expected in October, down 13.2% to $38.7 billion

In company news on Friday:

Pfizer Inc. ( PFE ) is just lower after it said this morning it is removing blood pressure drug Thelin from the market because it possibly can cause fatal liver damage. The drug is sold in Europe, Canada and Australia. Clinical trials and post-marketing reports showed a new link to liver injury. Two patients may have died from taking the drug, the company said. Pfizer said the withdrawal is voluntary.

Occidental Petroleum Corp ( OXY ) is higher after announcing deals to sell all of its assets in Argentina and buying property in Texas and North Dakota. The company also raised its dividend, effective April 15, to $0.46 from $0.38.

Borders Group Inc. ( BGP ) is down after saying last night it is talking with lenders to secure "sufficient liquidity" through early 2012 and avoid potential violations of debt covenants. The bookseller also is considering selling certain assets along with cost saving and sales generation initiatives after reporting a 17.6% drop in Q3 revenues and a $74.4 million operating loss, or $1.03 a share.

Genesco Inc. ( GCO ) is down after reporting this morning that it was hit by a cyber attack on its computer system. The company said no personal information appears to have been lost, but it is still investigating the extent of attack and that credit and debit card numbers were the likely target.

National Semiconductor ( NSM ) is down more than 7% early today after missing sales forecasts in its latest quarter, and guiding below the Street in the upcoming period.

Shares of hospital operator Community Health Systems Inc. (CYH) are higher after the company's acquisition offer was rejected by Tenet Healthcare Corp.'s (THC) board. Community Health is taking its $3 billion cash and stock offer public in a move to rally shareholder support for the deal. THC surged some 50% in evening trading and the company did confirm receipt of the offer. It would represent a 40% premium to Tenet's closing price Thursday of $4.29.

Panasonic Corp. (PC) is down in regular session trading after company President Fumio Ohtsubo yesterday reportedly said he expects the company to beat its full-year target of 21 million TV sets sold in the 12 months ending March 31, 2011. Calendar year-end sales also will likely be higher in the U.S. and Europe compared with last year, he told Bloomberg.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM) shares are higher after a report that the bank is looking to force a Las Vegas development by KB Homes (KBH) into bankruptcy, Bloomberg reported. JPMorgan filed for an involuntary bankruptcy in Las Vegas, saying the builders of the project are trying to avoid liability for a $585 million loan.

ADRs of Total SA (TOT) are higher as the firm's CEO, Christophe de Margerie, said deepwater drilling is not completely safe but the oil industry must continue to work there, according to a Reuters report of the comments. "Look at what happened to BP (BP)" De Margerie is quoted as saying. "Are we safer by going deep, deep offshore? No, but we have to do it.... It's not 100 percent safe."

The International Energy Agency this morning lifted its forecast for global oil demand for 2010 and 2011. The IEA sees stronger-than-expected consumption in North America and emerging Asian countries, especially China, which could bring OPEC countries under pressure to boost supplies next year.

The Paris-based agency estimates global demand will rise to 88.8 million barrels a day next year, about 260,000 barrels more than previous guidance. It also hiked its 2010 estimate to 87.4 million barrels a day, up 130,000 daily barrels.

Commodities are down. February gold contracts are down $14, or 1.03%, to $1,379 an ounce while January crude oil contacts are down 0.93%, or $0.82, at $87.56 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is down 1.34% to $37.43 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is down 0.69% to $6.05.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is down 0.62% to $134.53. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is down 0.73% to $60.98. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is down 1.28% to $27.67.

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: BGP , GCO , NSM , OXY , PFE

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