Stocks Lower Despite Positive Housing News; Market Awaits Big Earnings Results, Fed Policy Meeting


Stocks are lower in mid-day trading, after a surprise rise in new home sales was offset by mixed earnings news and caution ahead of the Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting, where its quantitative easing initiative is sure to be a topic.

On the housing front, U.S. new home sales rose 11.1% in March to seasonally adjusted 300,000 rate, better than economists' forecasts for a 290,000 sales rate. February also was revised up to 270,000 from 250,000.

Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will hold the first of his recently announced regular briefings on Wednesday at 2:15 p.m. ET. That will follow the Fed's two-day policy meeting.

In company news:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it sees possible anemia and psychiatric side effects in Merck's ( MRK ) experimental hepatitis drug, boceprevir, according to Reuters. A summary prepared by FDA staff for an advisory panel that will review the drug on Wednesday cited the increase in anemia in patients treated with boceprevir. The summary also pointed to a number of reports from patients who experienced psychiatric symptoms such as suicidal and homicidal thoughts, the report said. ( OSTK ) is just higher after it says the penalty enforced on them by Google ( GOOG ) in late February has been lifted. On April 12, shares fell after the company attributed its 5% lower sales due to Google penalizing the company for noncompliance with search engine guidelines which started Feb. 22.

Nike's ( NKE ) short-term problems are creating a buying opportunity for long-term investors as it battles rising material costs and Wall Street's lowered expectations, says a feature in this week's Barron's. Hard-charging Nike has tripped over higher input and freight costs. The stock dropped more than 9% last month after the athletic-products giant reported disappointing third-quarter results. But Nike is a marathoner, not a sprinter, and it will get back on track over the next year, Barron's says.

Pain Therapeutics ( PTIE ) announced today that REMOXY, its investigational drug for the treatment of pain, has met the primary endpoints of an abuse liability study. The top-line results, recently published in Pain Medicine, the official Journal of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, confirm that REMOXY is associated with a reduced potential for abuse.

Barnes & Noble (BKS) shares are seeing some pressure after the bookseller said it is turning its Nook Color ebook reader into a full tablet device. The updated device will include Google's ( GOOG ) Android 2.2 Froyo. The Tablet is set to be the cheapest Android tablet on the market at $250, notes

Apple shares are keeping fractional gains as Bloomberg reports South Korea's communications regulator is planning to look into if the computer and electronics device maker broke a law there by saving data on the location of its iPhone users. The agency--called the Korea Communications Commission--queried Apple to see how often user data is collected and saved. They also inquired whether users have a choice over whether it is saved.

Shares of Huntington Bancshares Inc. (HBAN) are down after Nomura Securities cut its rating on the stock to Neutral from Buy. The firm cited a lack of pricing power as the bank grows loans at lower yields. Last week, Huntington Bancshares reported Q1 EPS of $0.14 compared to $0.01 a year earlier, topping the Street view for $0.11. Officials said costs should "remain relatively stable" and nonaccrual loans should "decline meaningfully throughout the year."

Shares of Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) are trending lower as the two oil majors--the largest in the US--gear up to report earnings at the end of the week. Analysts see Exxon Mobil reporting a first-quarter profit of $9.8 billion, or $2.01 a share when reports Thursday. Chevron is expected to report Friday that it earned $3.04 a share, up nearly 29% year-over year.

In earnings news:

--Cooper Industries (CBE) says Q1 EPS from continuing operations were $0.93, up 33% from a year ago. Sales improved 18% to $1.28 billion from a year earlier.

--Johnson Controls (JCI) reports Q2 adjusted EPS of $0.56 compared to $0.43 a year earlier and beating the Thomson Reuters mean analyst estimate for $0.56. Sales of $10.1 billion are up 22% from the $8.3 billion reported a year earlier. The Street looked for $9.4 billion.

--RadioShack (RSH) reports Q1 sales of $1.06 bln, in line with the analyst consensus onThomson Reuters. EPS was $0.33, including two cents in items, vs. Street estimates of $0.35 per share, ex items.

Commodities are mixed. June gold contracts are up 0.35%, to $1,509 an ounce while May crude oil contacts are down 0.53% to $111.69 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is down 0.54% to $44.33 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is down 0.95%, to $11.43.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 0.33% at $147.23. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is down 1.84% to $61.48. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 1.64% to $46.28.

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

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

This article appears in: Investing , Commodities

Referenced Stocks: GOOG , MRK , NKE , OSTK , PTIE

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