Stocks Mixed at Mid-Day as Investors Seek Direction in Shortened Trading Week

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Stocks are mixed in mid-day trading as an initial, upbeat reaction to the freshly signed tax-cut package faded in the face of geopolitical events in Korea and continuing debt concerns in Europe.

The tax package is touted as a boost to economic growth, although critics say it will balloon the federal deficit, fuel higher inflation and have a limited stimulus affect on the economy. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 3.30% from 3.33% late Friday.

South Korea's military staged live fire military drills on an island just miles from North Korea, raising tensions between the two countries.

In mid-day company news:

Shares of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals ( REGN ) are down after announcing along with partner Bayer ( BAYRY ) that a drug for retinal disorders met the main goal of a late-stage study. The drug is purported to treat central retinal occlusion, which can cause loss of vision. As a result of the study, Regeneron will receive $10 million in milestone payment from Bayer. Regeneron shares are down over 2%, but have risen 12% since November.

Elsewhere, shares of AT&T ( T ) are down after it agreed to purchase spectrum licenses in the Lower 700 MHz frequency band from Qualcomm ( QCOM ) for $1.925 billion. The move will bolster AT&T's ability to provide an advanced 4G mobile broadband experience for its customers in the years ahead. AT&T sees that it will begin deploying this spectrum once compatible handsets and network equipment are developed.

Shares of Sara Lee ( SLE ) are higher on news over the weekend the food products company has been in talks to sell itself to Brazilian meat producer JBS, according to Reuters. Talks between the two have reportedly been going on for months, and the situation remains fluid. In November, Sara lee sold its bakery business to Mexico's Grupo Bimbo for $925 million.

Meanwhile, shares of Medtronic (MDT) are higher after the company said that William A. Hawkins intends to retire as Chairman and CEO of the company at the conclusion of the current fiscal year ending April 29, 2011. The company's board of directors has initiated an external search for his replacement, and Mr. Hawkins plans to remain until his successor is appointed.

Sony (SNE) may miss a target to sell 25 million TVs this year, Bloomberg reports, citing company VP Hiroshi Yoshioka. Sony, which is the third-largest television maker in the world, could miss its target by a "little bit," the report quoted Yoshioka as saying. Still, the company's overall sales are in line with the prior year.

Shares of Jefferies (JEF) are down after the company said that Q4 revenues are $698 million, better than the Street consensus of $579 million on Thomson Reuters. Earnings per share came in at $0.35 compared with expectations of $0.32 per share. Jefferies has been expanding its advisory and trading units. It beat estimates on record investment banking revenue.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM) is planning to acquire Lehman Brothers former London office as its European headquarters, the company announced this morning. The firm is making the buy for $769 million. "The opportunity for our Investment Bank to be located in one state-of-the-art building allows us to upgrade our operational capabilities and maintain our strong position in the region," said Jes Staley, CEO of the investment bank, in a statement.

Shares of First Solar (FSLR) are down following the tech column in this week's Barron's that says analysts expect further cuts to German solar subsidies to be approved, an event which would take a substantial bite out of earnings for industry leader First Solar.

Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) shares are trending lower following a Bloomberg report in which the retail giant's suppliers criticized CEO Mike Duke and his managers for doing a poor job explaining their business plans. In a survey, over half of the 139 suppliers surveyed by a recruitment firm did not agree that "senior leadership is aligned behind a strategic vision that is consistently communicated and well understood by the supplier community," the report quoted the survey as saying.

Commodities are modestly higher as February gold contracts are up $5, or 0.36%, to $1,384 an ounce while February crude oil contacts are up 0.36%, or $0.32, at $88.93 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 0.21% to $37.89 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is up 1.57% to $5.67.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 0.57% to $134.95. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 0.10% to $60.50. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 0.04% to $28.52.



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: BAYRY , QCOM , REGN , SLE , T

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