Stocks Lower as Consumer Confidence Weighs; Investors Watch European Developments


Stocks are off their lows, but still down in mid-day trading as confidence among U.S. consumers slipped to two-and-a-half year low and home prices, year-over-year, fell more than economists expected. Developments in Europe, where leaders are struggling to develop a long-term plan to address the region's debt crisis, are also weighing on the market, while mixed earnings offered little support.

The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index declined to 39.8 this month, down from a 46.4 reading in September, MarketWatch reported. Economists expected a reading of 46 this month.

The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 cities fell 3.8% from August 2010. The median forecast of 30 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for a 3.5% decline. Prices have fallen 31% since the market peak in 2006. Compared to the previous month, however, prices were essentially flat in August, adjusting for seasonal variations. Prices slid 0.1% in July over June.

In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to ask her parliament to approve a plan that would see the 440 billion euro ($611 billion) European Financial Stability Facility leveraged to provide around 1 trillion euro in firepower, the Wall Street Journal reports. A vote is expected ahead of Wednesday's summit.

Negotiations continue over efforts to reduce Greece's debt burden in part by asking private bond holders to take bigger write-downs than the 21% agreed in July. The Financial Times reported that negotiators have asked bondholders to take 60% haircuts on the face value of Greek bond holdings.

In mid-day company news:

Chevron ( CVX ) shares are down while Reuters reported the U.S. oil major is planning to add to its already $1 billion natural gas investment in Bangladesh. The move comes as the government there has asked it to raise production. Chevron is currently producing 1 billion cubic feet of gas from three fields in that country. Authorities are looking for it to produce 500 million cubic feet more.

Shares of News Corp. (NWS.A) are down, while Bloomberg reported that a third of the media giant's shareholders voted against Rupert Murdoch's sons for election to the board of directors. The protest comes in the aftermath of the phone-hacking scandal that rocked the firm earlier this year.

Apple ( AAPL ) shares are down after a new Millennial Media study showed that Apple's iPad tablet accounted for 97% of all ads displayed on those kinds of devices, according to All Things Digital, a Wall Street Journal publication. On the other hand, smart phones based on Google's ( GOOG ) Android operating system had 56% of mobile advertisements, the report said.

Shares of Citigroup ( C ) are down while Bloomberg reported that the bank, which was saved with with a government bailout during the height of the financial crisis, is planning a sale of 10-year senior notes as the bank's credit risk declines. The report notes credit-default swaps for Citi have decreased 5.7 basis points to 224.5 basis points. That is down from 359 at the beginning of the month.

ADRs of Novartis ( NVS ) are down after The Wall Street Journal reported that the drug giant said it will cut about 1% of its workers and shutter three plants in Europe. The cuts will total about 2,000 jobs. The move comes as a bid for Novartis to cut costs as drug price cuts continue to hit the company's bottom line.

Netflix (NFLX) has shed more than a third of its market value in a spectacular plunge out of the gate, after its Q3 earnings and guidance sent up warning flares that the company might be in distress.

In earnings news:

--UPS Inc. (UPS) reported a Q3 net of $1.04 billion, or $1.06 per share, compared with $991 million, or 99 cents per share, last year. Analysts were expecting $1.05 per share, according to Thomson Reuters. Revenue rose 18% to $13.17 billion, matching the Street, largely on higher prices and fuel surcharges.

--Waddell & Reed Financial (WDR) reports Q3 EPS of $0.46 and revenue of $297.7 million. Analysts expected EPS of $0.50 on revenue of $298.58 million.

Commodities are higher. December gold contracts are up 2.46% to $1,693 an ounce while December crude oil contacts are up 2.49% to $93.60 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 1.98% to $36.08 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is up 0.46%, to $8.75.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 2.25% to $164.64. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 2.1% to $57.20. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 2.4% to $31.61.

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: AAPL , C , CVX , GOOG , NVS

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