Stocks are down modestly in mid-day trading as investors seek a
clear direction in the wake of a weekend television interview by
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. He indicated the central
bank will look at a possible expansion of its controversial
bond-buying program. Also adding to the mix is speculation on
possible outcomes from a meeting of finance ministers from 16
European nations seeking to avoid more costly bailouts.
There are no economic reports scheduled.
In an interview on CBS's "60 Minutes," Bernanke defended the
Fed's recent actions and pledged to do more as necessary. He warned
that the job market could take years to return to pre-crisis
strength. The quantitative easing program, which puts more money
into the market as the Fed purchases treasuries, has drawn both
criticism and praise.
Also, European Union leaders are due to meet in Brussels to
discuss whether their 750 billion euro ($997 million) rescue fund
might need to be increased.
In company-specific news, shares of Pfizer (
) are higher in the regular session after Chief Executive Officer
and Chairman Jeffrey B. Kindler announced his retirement Sunday
evening, a development that surprised, at least with its timing,
several analysts that cover the company. Ian C. Read, Pfizer's head
of global biopharmaceutical operations, will take over as chief
executive immediately. The board said in its statement that it
would elect a new chairman at a meeting within two weeks.
) shares are higher after the Internet giant unveiled its version
of digital books with more than three million titles available
through its eBookstore. Users can buy, store and read Google eBooks
like they would access messages in Gmail by using a
password-protected Google account. eBooks storage would be
unlimited. Books would cost between $6.17 to $14.99, although some
would be free, the company said in a statement.
Shares of MetLife (
) are higher as the largest U.S. life insurer said it sees 2011
earnings to climb after the completion of an acquisition from
American International Group (
), according to reports. For 2011, MetLIfe sees earnings in the
range of $4.75 to $5.15 per share and premiums, fees, and other
revenue in the range of $45.8 to $47 billion.
The analyst consensus is $5.03 per share in earnings, according
to Thomson Reuters. Ailco,which MetLife purchased from AIG last
month, will enable MetLife to add clients outside of the U.S. life
insurance market, reports Bloomberg, citing comments from the
Shares of Seattle Genetics (
) are sharply lower following positive results from the pivotal
trial of single-agent brentuximab vedotin (SGN-35) in relapsed or
refractory Hodgkin lymphoma. The results are better than expected,
but the commercial potential of the drug may be limited because of
"the small market opportunity," Bloomberg quoted Canaccord Genuity
analyst George Farmer as saying.
Massey Energy (MEE) is up more than 3%, after it said late
Friday President Baxter Phillips Jr. will succeed Don Blankenship
as chief executive officer after he retires on Dec. 31.
AOL Inc. (AOL) and Yahoo (YHOO) are both higher following a
published report this morning that AOL may break itself up and seek
to merge its content division with Yahoo. AOL's plans are in the
exploratory stage, according to Reuters, which broke the story,
citing unnamed people close to the plans. No talks are known to be
underway. AOL would sell its dial-up business to another Internet
service provider and combine its content business with Yahoo,
according to the report.
Starbucks Coffee Co. (SBUX) opened lower and is down
fractionally after firing a shot across the bow of Kraft (KFT) this
morning over a coffee deal gone awry, calling the food company
"self-serving." The statement was in response to a move earlier
today by Kraft to seek a preliminary injunction against Starbucks
for allegedly violating the coffee deal. Starbucks claims the
agreement had been terminated.
Shares of Bank of America (BAC) have fallen in regular session
trading despite an earlier Financial Times report that the bank
will meet a Dec. 31 deadline to raise the final $3 billion needed
to fully repay the government's $45 billion bailout two years ago.
The bank was able to satisfy the capital requirements by scaling
back its stake in Blackrock (BLK) and selling warrants for shares
in China Construction Bank, the newspaper said, citing undisclosed
Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF) shares are down as the studio
filed an amended complaint , saying that Carl Icahn--who has been
engaged in a hostile takeover of the studio--was secretly plotting
to profit from a merger between the Lions Gate and
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, according to a Bloomberg report on the matter.
Also, Lions Gate reportedly asked a judge to force Icahn to
disclose the extend and value of his MGM debt holdings.
Shares of Barnes & Noble (BKS) are sharply higher in the
regular session on news that hedge fund manager William Ackman is
ready to finance a Borders (BGP) $16 per share offer for Barnes
& Noble. Ackerman owns 37% of Borders through his Pershing
Square Capital Management, according to a filing with the
Securities & Exchange Commission.
Shares of NextEra Energy (NEE) are down as the company says it
has agreed to purchase Canadian solar projects from First Solar
(FSLR) according to a statement from the company. Under the terms
of the project agreements, First Solar will continue developing and
will construct the Sombra and Moore Solar Energy Centers, using
First Solar's advanced thin film solar modules. All of the power
from the solar projects will be sold to the Ontario Power Authority
under long-term contracts.
Commodities are mixed as February gold contracts are up $14, or
0.95%, to $1,420 an ounce while January crude oil contacts are down
0.35%, or $0.31, at $88.88 a barrel.
In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is down 0.44%
to $38.14 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is up 3.87%
In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 0.15% to
$138.27. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 0.86% to $63.25.
iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 2.18% to $29.22.