Stocks Mixed at Mid-Day as Disappointing Employment News Weighs; Intel Due After the Bell


Stocks are mixed in mid-session trading following a disappointing increase in the number of new workers filing for jobless claims. Earnings are adding to the mix as investors await a key report from tech bellwether Intel ( INTC ) after the bell today. Rounding out the mood-setting news for the market is new data on U.S. wholesale prices and the trade deficit.

Overseas, the Bank of England and European Central Bank left monetary policy unchanged. European markets have been unable to extend yesterday's rally, as investors digest large bond issues across the region.

The number of U.S. workers who filed new applications for jobless benefits jumped 35,000 last week to 445,000, the highest level in more than two months. Government official attributed the sharp increase largely to administrative backlogs, MarketWatch reported. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected initial claims in the week ended Jan. 8 to fall to a seasonally adjusted 405,000. Last week s claims were revised up by 1,000 to 410,000.

The less-volatile four-week average of new claims rose a much smaller 5,500 to 416,500.

U.S. wholesale prices climbed 1.1% in December, largely owing to a spike in gasoline prices, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The seasonally adjusted increase in producer prices last month was the biggest since last January, according to government data.

Core producer prices, which exclude the volatile food and energy categories, rose 0.2% - in line with Wall Street expectations.

The last of the trio of reports, the U.S. trade deficit narrowed for a fourth straight month in November, defying economist predictions for a rebound. The nation's trade deficit contracted a slight 0.3% to $38.3 billion from a revised $38.4 billion in October, the Commerce Department said.

In company news:

An anti-clotting medication from Merck & Co. ( MRK ), which analysts had anticipated would generate $5 billion in sales, was stopped for patients with a previous stroke, Bloomberg reported. The move could potentially limit the drug's use. Interim studies suggest the medication, which prevent platelets within blood from clumping together, is inappropriate for people who have suffered a stroke.

Target ( TGT ) shares are higher after it announced today that it is set to open stores in Canada beginning in 2013 after signing an agreement to purchase 220 leases from Zellers, a unit of Hudson Bay. The purchase agreement is valued at C$1.825 billion.

Shares of PharmAthene ( PIP ) are higher as the company announced that it recently presented new data from its programs for anthrax anti-toxin and recombinant Protective Antigen (rPA) anthrax vaccine. The new data presented contributes to the company's plans of advancing its pipline and furthering its position in biodefense, the company stated.

Marathon Oil Corp. ( MRO ) is higher following news it is moving forward with plans to spin off its downstream business, creating two highly focused energy companies. The spin-off is expected to be effective June 30 with the new company trading under the "MPC" ticker symbol.

Shares of American International Group (AIG) are higher as a Bloomberg report said that new investors in the bailed-out insurance giant may want the firm to be ready to pick a successor. The current CEO, Robert Benmosche, is set to begin treatment for cancer this October. Benmosche doubled shareholders' money in his first 17 months in office.

Shares of Oilsands Quest (BQI) are down sharply after saying a detailed review of its core assets at Axe Lake, Wallace Creek and Raven Ridge show the resource base in these areas could support three projects with the potential for producing, in aggregate, 100,000 barrels a day of bitumen.

General Electric (GE) announced that it has signed a deal to buy Lineage Power Holdings, a privately held company. The deal, which is the latest in a string of acquisitions by GE, is valued at $520 million and is expected to help tap into the growth in data centers, electronic devices and telecommunications, the company stated.

Research in Motion (RIMM) is up after it said it had given a solution ahead of a Jan. 31 target date that enables Indian wireless carriers lawful access to consumer services including the BlackBerry Messenger, but excludes access to corporate emails.

In earnings news,

Blackboard Inc. (BBBB) is down after moving to acquire Presidium Inc. for about $53 million in cash, excluding transaction costs. Blackboard previously owned a 10% equity stake in Presidium. It also reaffirmed its Q4 and FY10 financial guidance and provided initial financial guidance for the Q1 and FY11, saying it anticipates a $0.24-a-share adjusted Q1 profit on about $114.1 mln in revenues, topping the Thomson Reuters consensus for revenues but missing EPS estimates.

Shares of Visa Inc. (V) are down moderately after the company looks to sign three Philippine banks this year for its debit card services. The company is refocusing its business in the Philippines in favor of debit and prepaid cards. The move is partly because of slow growth in the credit card business, Iain Jamieson, Visa's country manager for the Philippines and Guam, told Dow Jones Newswires.

Shares of AT&T (T) are just higher on expectations for a $2.7 billion non-cash charge in Q4 because of a change in the way the company recognizes gains or losses for pension and other post-retirement benefits. It expects 2011 adjusted benefit costs to be in line with 2010 adjusted levels.

Infosys Technologies (INFY) shares are down after it said Q3 profit was 17.8 billion rupees, below estimates for 18.2 billion, according to a Reuters poll. It expects its dollar revenue to rise 25.7% to 26.1% in the year ending March, below analysts expectations of 27% to 28%, Reuters reports. The revenue growth forecast was, however, higher than the 24% to 25% rise estimated previously by the company.

Commodities are mixed. February gold contracts are down $1, or 0.07%, to $1,385 an ounce, while February crude oil contacts are up 0.07%, or $0.06, at $91.91 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 0.33% to $39.12 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is down 1.38% to $605.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is down 0.18% to $135.22. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is down 1.11% to $57.26. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is down 0.93% to $28.73.

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: INTC , MRK , MRO , PIP , TGT

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