Stocks are lower at mid-day as concerns from across the pond
dominate investor attention. Adding to the mix was the Conference
Board's index of leading economic indicators, which logged the
biggest gain in nine months.
Earlier in the day, Moody's downgraded Ireland's government-bond
rating by five slots and said the country had a weak economic
U.S. November leading economic indicators rose 1.1%, the biggest
gain since March, but only matching Street views. Nine of the 10
component indicators included in the index rose in November, with
the largest positive contribution coming from the index of supplier
deliveries. Building permits were the only negative
Also, lawmakers approved a two-year across-the-board extension
of Bush-era tax cuts just before midnight Thursday by a vote of
277-148. The bill, already passed by the Senate, now goes to
President Barack Obama for signature. The bill includes a 2%
rollback of Social Security payroll taxes, extends unemployment
insurance for 13 months, and brings back the estate tax at 35% for
two years on estates of more than $5 million. Wall Street has given
mixed reviews to the plan, believing it may help stimulate a weak
economic recovery but at the cost of even deeper deficit
In Friday's company news:
Shares of InterMune (
) are soaring after the company said that the European Medicines
Agency "adopted a positive opinion" to allow the marketing of its
lung drug Esbriet. The drug is being developed for the treatment of
idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. This is a a rare, fatal condition
where lungs suffer scarring due to unknown causes.
Shares of Google (
) are seeing pressure this morning as the the Internet search giant
faces antitrust complaints in the European Union from publishers
who say that the company discriminates against their sites,
Bloomberg reports. The EU took over part of a complaint that was
original filed with Germany's antitrust agency in January. The EU
is looking into whether Google discriminated against competing
services in its search results.
Hewlett Packard Co. (
) shares are just lower after the computer maker said it faces a
wider federal investigation into alleged payment of kickbacks to
sell its products overseas. The joint U.S. Justice Department and
Securities and Exchange Commission probe is now looking into
bribery allegations in Austria, Serbia, the Netherlands and the
Commonwealth of Independent States, according to a regulatory
filing by the company. HP is already under investigation in Russia
and Germany for alleged bribes dating back as far as 10 years
ADRs of AstraZeneca (
) are down in the regular session after the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration asked for additional analysis of data from a study
of Brilinta. Analysts said the demand for extra analysis is likely
to delay final approval of the drug by six to twelve months.
) is up almost 6% in regular session trading after posting solid
results late Thursday and is providing some lift for the tech
Shares of Visa (V) and MasterCard (MA) are mixed as investors
look at whether the two credit card networks will face permanent
damage after the Federal Reserve proposed rules that could cut
debit-card transaction fees by 90%. This morning, Goldman Sachs
downgraded Visa to Buy from Conviction Buy, citing the regulatory
overhang from the Fed's debit interchange proposals.
Shares of International Coal (ICO) are higher after Bloomberg
reported that Massey Energy (MEE) is considering its options, which
include selling itself or taking over International Coal. Massey's
discussions with International Coal, which started early this year,
resumed again after a brief lull on Dec. 3 following Massey Chief
Executive Don Blankenship's decision to retire at the end of this
year, Bloomberg reported, citing three people with knowledge of the
matter. Meanwhile, another rival Alpha Natural Resources (ANR) has
remained open to buying Massey and is among the options that is
being considered by the Massey board, the people told the agency.
At least two other coal mining companies are interested in Massey
apart from ANR.
Allied Irish Banks (AIB) and Bank of Ireland (IRE) are lower
after Moody's downgraded Ireland's credit rating by five notches.
Moody's cut Ireland's rating to Baa1 with a negative outlook from
Aa2 and warned further downgrades could follow if Dublin was unable
to stabilize its debt situation.
Shares of Coca Cola Enterprises (CCE) are just higher in the
regular session as the beverage distributor affirmed its pro forma
2010 EPS guidance in the range of $1.74 to $1.78 per share. The
Street view is $1.79 per share, according to Thomson Reuters.
Revenue is expected to be about $7.4 billion compared to
expectations of $7.40 billion. For 2011, the company said it
expects to achieve 2011 comparable and currency neutral earnings
per diluted common share growth in a range of 10 percent to 12
Shares of Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) are down as the U.S. Supreme
Court agreed to hear an appeal from the retailer in the biggest
employment discrimination case in the nation's history, The New
york Times reported. The case has claims that says Wal-Mart
discriminated against thousands of women in promotion and
compensation. The lawsuit is looking for back pay the could total
billions of dollars.
Commodities are higher. February gold contracts are up $1, or
0.11%, to $1,373 an ounce while January crude oil contacts are up
0.23%, or $0.20, at $87.90 a barrel.
In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 0.23% to
$37.85 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is up 0.76% to
In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 0.02% to
$133.84. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is down 0.47% to $59.89.
iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 0.11% to $28.31.
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