Stocks Mixed at Mid-Session, But Pare Early Losses; IBM Due After the Bell

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Stocks are just higher after spending much of the morning mixed, following a spate of earnings news before the bell, some of which was disappointing. Stocks also managed to shake off surprising news from Apple ( AAPL ), technology's most valuable company, and an earnings disappointment from Citigroup ( C ).

In the latest economic data, the Empire State Manufacturing index rose to 11.9 in January, short of economists' forecast for a rise to 13.

Also, the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo housing market index remained flat at 16. Economists had expected the gauge to pick up a point, to 17, according to a MarketWatch poll. The index measures confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes.

In the latest company news:

International Business Machines ( IBM ) is higher in morning trade ahead of the company's Q4 financial results, which are due in the extended-hours tonight. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters are expecting a profit of $4.08 per share on sales of $28.3 billion.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said Monday he would be taking a leave of absence to "focus on his health." U.S. markets were closed Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Jobs announced the news in a brief e-mail to employees which was released to the media. No details were given on his health condition. Jobs said he will continue in his role as CEO, placing COO Tim Cook in charge of the firm's daily operations. Cook is currently in charge of Apple's worldwide sales and operations, along with its Macintosh division.

Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline ( GSK ) will take a 2.2 billion pounds ($3.4 billion) charge against earnings in the fourth quarter to provide for litigation over its diabetes drug, Avandia, the AP and other news outlets report. The company said the charge is due mainly to additional costs related to the investigation of the company's sales and promotional practices by the U.S. Attorney for Colorado.

General Motors ( GM ) is expanding an earlier recall of some 2011 model-year trucks and SUVs to fix a problem that could cause the vehicles' rear axles to lock, the AP reports. The recall, originally announced in December, now covers 26,751 Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC trucks and SUVs. The models affected are: Cadillac Escalade, Escalade ESV, Cadillac EXT, Chevrolet Avalanche, Colorado, Silverado, Suburban, Tahoe; and GMC Canyon, Sierra, Yukon and Yukon XL.

JetBlue Airways (JBLU) said that the massive Northeastern blizzard in December, which hit its home base, had reduced its operating income in the fourth quarter, resulting in about $30 million in lost passenger revenue. Some 1,400 flights were cancelled in five days before, during and after the blizzard. The normal run of flights for JBLU is 600 per day. The company, however, states that its December traffic rose 3.7%, helping offset the storm's impact.

Smith & Nephew (SNN) rises after a weekend report that Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) was considering a fresh takeover approach worth at least 800 pence a share, Reuters reported on Monday. The Sunday Times newspaper said, without citing sources, that JNJ was understood to be weighing a formal offer for (SNN) after a tentative approach was rejected last year.

ADRs of Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA) are just higher after the oil major--Europe's largest; said it shut down production from four Brent crude platforms in the North Sea following an accident, Bloomberg reports. Shell has declined to say when operations will resume or whether the company would have to declare force majeure on Brent crude shipments.

Comcast (CMCSA) shares are just higher after Bloomberg reported that the company's proposed merger with NBC Universal is close to approval from the Federal Communications Commission. Four of five members of the FCC could vote on the deal today after negotiations over the merger terms during the holiday weekend.

Shares of Goldman Sachs (GS) are down following news the investment bank plans to limit the upcoming offering of shares in Facebook to non-U.S. investors. In a statement, the investment bank cited "intense media coverage" since details of the deal emerged Jan. 2 as well as possible issues over selling stakes in private firms to American investors for the decision.

Shares of American Airlines parent AMR (AMR) are down even as the company said today that it has entered into an agreement with priceline.com (PCLN) to utilize American's direct connect technology to access fares as well as customized travel products and services. Priceline.com expects to begin issuing American Airlines tickets through the link in the near future. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The link is part of a long-term relationship between American Airlines and priceline.com.

Shares of Yum! Brands (YUM) are higher as the company said its plans to place its Long John Silver's and A&W All-American Food Restaurants for sale, and has begun a process to identify a buyer. In a statement, the company said it is sharpening its long-term growth focus on building leading brands in every significant category in China, driving aggressive international expansion and improving its U.S. brand positions by building new dayparts and sales layers at Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC.

In the latest earnings news:

--Citigroup said Q4 EPS were $0.04, worse than the Thomson Reuters mean for $0.08. Sales were $18.4 billion, below forecasts for $20.4 billion.

--TD Ameritrade (AMTD) said this morning that Q1 EPS were $0.25, meeting the Thomson Reuters mean estimate. Sales were $656 million, above estimates for $648.3 million. Average client trades per day of approximately 372,000, a decrease of 2%.

--Courier (CRRC) said this morning that Q1 sales were $61.2 million, down 3% from a year ago. It earned $0.14 per share, below the Thomson Reuters mean for $0.18. For the year, it sees sales between $271 million and $283 million, and EPS less items between $.90 and $1.20. The Thomson Reuters mean is $1.09.

--Charles Schwab (SCHW) said this morning that Q4 sales were $1.127 billion, more than the Thomson Reuters mean for $1.10559 billion. It earned a dime per share, meeting estimates.

--Comerica (CMA) reported that net income for the fourth quarter rose to $95 million, or $0.53 per share, an increase from year-ago net income of $59 million or $0.33 per share. The results top the consensus estimate of fourth quarter earnings of $0.32 per share, according to an analyst poll by

Thomson Reuters.

Commodities are higher. February gold contracts are up $0.06, or 0.62%, to $1,369 an ounce while February crude oil contacts are up 0.09%, or $0.1, at $91.63 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is down 0.15% to $38.86 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is down 0.96% to $6.04.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 0.78% to $133.72. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 1.77% to $55.85. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 1.87% to $28.26.



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: AAPL , C , GM , GSK , IBM

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