Stocks Lower on Ireland Worries, Wall Street Insider Trading Probe

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Stocks are lower in mid-day trading on the first day of the Thanksgiving holiday week as investors pulled back on news over the weekend that Ireland asked the European Union for financial help. Also weighing on investor sentiment is word of a government probe of insider trading on Wall Street. A string of M&A deals is providing support.

Ireland late Sunday announced it has applied for aid from the European Union. The move was welcomed by EU officials and the International Monetary Fund, which said they are ready to provide support. However, the size and exact look of the bailout remains unclear, with the details due in coming days, news outlets report.

That sent ADRs of the Bank of Ireland ( IRE ) sharply lower. Meanwhile, a "multi-notch downgrade" of Ireland's Aa2 rating is now the "most likely" outcome of a review of the nation's sovereign-credit rating, Moody's Investors Service said Monday in its weekly credit outlook.

In M&A, shares of health insurer Humana ( HUM ) are higher on news it will buy Concentra for approximately $790 million in cash. The deal is anticipated to close in December. Concentra is expected to be slightly accretive to HUM's earnings for the year ending Dec. 31, 2011. "We are excited about the opportunity to acquire a strong stand-alone business that reinforces our core businesses while providing both revenue diversification and opportunities for strategic expansion longer term," said Humana CEO Michael McCallister, ina statement.

Meanwhile, shares of Novell ( NOVL ) are moderately higher in the regular session after privately held Attachmate Corp. said it will acquire the for $6.10 per share in cash. All told, the transaction is valued at approximately $2.2 billion. The sale concludes a nine-month process for Novel, which had started looking at strategic alternatives including a sale after rejecting a $2 billion takeover offer in March, Bloomberg notes.

Elsewhere in deal news, Broadcom ( BRCM ) shares are higher following news it will acquire Gigle Networks for approximately $75 million. Excluding any purchase accounting related adjustments or fair value measurements that are not estimable at this time, Broadcom expects the acquisition of Gigle Networks to be dilutive by approximately $0.01 per share in 2011.

In other company news, shares of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals ( REGN ) are sharply higher after the company says the experimental eye-drug it is developing with Bayer (BAYRY) was successful in two late-stage studies in patients with a vision-deteriorating condition. Regeneron's treatment maintained or improved patient vision when injected into the eye every two months, according to a Reuters report on the results.

Wal-Mart (WMT) shares are down after the retail giant said it will "price match competitors' ads on 'Black Friday,'" according to a statement. The move is a part of three days of sales that will begin on Thanksgiving Day through online-only specials. The move comes amid uncertainty about how much consumers are willing to open their wallets during the holiday shopping season, which many retailers see as a make-or-break time of year.

TiVo (TIVO) announces a powerful new TIVO app for Apple's (AAPL) iPad. The app will be free from the Apple iTunes App store in the coming weeks. The TiVo app allows the user to "search, browse, explore and share entertainment" without interrupting whatever is playing on TV, according to a company statement.

Financial shares are trading lower across the board as investors seek defensive positions in reaction to the government's probe of insider trading on Wall Street.

In retail overseas, ADRs of Tesco (TSCDY) are down following news the the U.K.'s largest retailer plans to quadruple its sales in China over the next five years as it boosts the number of stores there, Bloomberg reported. Tesco looks to have sales of $6.4 billion from China by 2015, the report said.

TNK-BP--Russia's third-largest oil company half-owned by BP (BP)--plans to invest $3.8 billion in its gas business over the next three years, Reuters reported. The firm reportedly plans to double production to 30 billion cubic meters. The firm is currently in negotiations with BP to buy gas assets in Venezuela and Vietnam.

Hewlett Packard (HPQ) is down ahead of its earnings report due after the bell. Analysts expect the computer and printer maker to report a $1.27 a share profit for the quarter on about $32.75 billion in sales. It reported net earnings of $1.14 a share and $30.78 billion in sales a year ago. Separately, Wedbush upgraded the stock this morning and lifted its target to $50 from $46.

Netflix (NFLX) says it introduced a $7.99 streaming-only subscription plan in the United States, the first time it is promoting a 100% streaming option in the U.S. The plan, which allows members to instantly watch unlimited movies and TV episodes streamed from NFLX to TVs and computers, is available now to both new and existing members.

In earnings news:

--Tyson Foods Inc. (TSN) is higher after swinging to a Q4 profit of $213 million, or 57 cents per share, compared with a loss of $457 million, or $1.23 per share, a year ago. Ex items, it reported 64 cents per share, topping the Street's call for 56 cents according to a Thomson Reuters poll.

Commodities are mixed. December gold contracts are up $3, or 0.2%, to $1,355 an ounce while January crude contacts are down 1.1%, or $0.90, at $81.08 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is down 1.42% to $34.72 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is up 0.99% to $5.99

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 0.12% to $132.35. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 0.12% to $59.35. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 0.86% to $26.97.



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.

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This article appears in: Investing , Commodities

Referenced Stocks: BRCM , HUM , IRE , NOVL , REGN

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