US Indexes Higher at Session's Half Despite Crude Prices Bubbling Higher, Disappointing Durable Goods Data


Stocks rallied in mid-session trading as investors shrugged off disappointing data showing a decline in orders for durable goods and a continued rise in oil, driven higher by strife in Libya and other Middle East countries. The May crude contract topped $106 a barrel at last check.

In the latest data released this morning, orders for U.S. durable goods in February posted the biggest drop in fourth months, falling 0.9% largely. Orders less the volatile transportation sector also fell, down 0.6%, the Commerce Department reported. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch has expected orders to rise 1.5% overall, or an even stronger 2.5% minus transportation. Separately, first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell by 5,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday.

First-time claims for unemployment benefits fell by 5,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, in another sign of a gradually improving job market. In the week ended March 19, claims dropped to a seasonally adjusted 382,000, and the prior week's level was upwardly revised by 2,000 to 387,000. The four-week moving average b useful because it smooths out unusual moves, fell by 1,500 to 385,250, the lowest level since July 2008.

In other company news:

Shares of Amgen ( AMGN ) are higher and Bloomberg reports that the biotech company may introduce its first dividend next month as investors seek value from the $17.4 billion in cash the company has socked away. The move may come on April 21st at the company's investor meeting, according to a Deutsche Bank analyst.

Wells Fargo ( WFC ) Chief Executive Officer John Stumpf said home-equity losses remain his top concern due to lingering high unemployment in the United States, Bloomberg reported, citing a note from Sanford Bernstein & Co.

Apple ( AAPL ) is higher after closing yesterday's regular session lower. The computer giant could continue to post sales growth of more than 50% in the next two years, said Forrester Research Inc. CEO George Colony in an interview with Bloomberg. Colony cited the rising demand for devices such as the iPad as the reason. Apple sold almost 15 million iPads in its debut year and more than 90 million iPhones in its four-year lifespan, according to the article.

IMAX Corp. ( IMAX ) is up after announcing a 75-theatre joint revenue sharing agreement with Wanda Cinema Line Corp. IMAX also announced the formation of IMAX China to oversee the expansion of the rapidly growing IMAX business in the market.

Boston Scientific ( BSX ) says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the Clik Anchor for its Precision Plus Spinal Cord Stimulator (SCS) System, the company's rechargeable SCS device for chronic pain management. The company intends on launching the Clik Anchor at the American Academy of Pain Medicine Annual Meeting, which begins today in Washington, D.C.

Shares of Bank of America (BAC) are down after being reportedly downgraded by FBR Capital to Market Perform from Outperform. The firm also reportedly cut its price target to $15 from $18 per share.

Walgreen Co. (WAG) is up along with (DSCM), which is soaring 111% at last check. Walgreen will buy the online drugstore for approximately $409 million, or $3.80 per share in cash. They expect the merger will close by the end of June.

Plains Exploration & Production (PXP) shares are higher and Reuters reports that the company said its planned sale of its deepwater assets in the Gulf of Mexico would be delayed as the current regulatory environment deterred buyers.

In earnings news:

--Micron Technology (MU) reported Q2 EPS of $0.07, better than the Street view of $0.02 per share. Sales were $2.3 billion, vs. expectations of $2.06 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.

--Shares of Scholastic (SCHL) are down after the company said Q3 sales were $393.7 million and loss per share from continuing operations was $0.81, including one-time expenses of $0.13. The Thomson Reuters mean was for $402.8 million and a loss, usually less items, of $0.22.

Commodities are higher as April gold contracts are up $8, or 0.57%, to $1,447 an ounce while May crude oil contacts are up 0.35%, or $0.37, at $106.13 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 0.6% to $42.36 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is down $0.14, or 1.34%, to $11.41.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 0.51% to $141.06. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 1.63% to $61.26. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 1.78% to $37.12.

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: AAPL , AMGN , BSX , IMAX , WFC

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