Stocks are mixed at the session's half as investors await the
release of the Federal Reserve's so-called "beige book" of regional
economic conditions at 2 p.m. EDT. Meanwhile, concerns linger
through the morning about the strength of the US economic
Investors are reacting to Fed chief Ben Bernanke's late-Tuesday
speech. Major averages reversed late in Tuesday's session, ending a
touch lower and extending the latest slide to five sessions.
Bernanke believes the U.S. economy will pick up in the second
half of the year. But he also admitted that the economic recovery
was proving to be "uneven" and "frustratingly slow." Still, he gave
no indication that another round of quantitative easing was
In company news:
Shares of McDonald's (MCD) are higher in regular-session trading
as the company said May global comparable sales rose 3.1%. U.S.
comparable sales increased 2.4%, Europe up 2.3% and Asia/Pacific,
Middle East and Africa up 4.3%. McDonald's saw brisk sales in
seasonal products such as its coffee beverages and frozen
strawberry lemonade, according to a Forbes report on the sales
figures. Breakfast items such as fruit & maple oatmeal pushed
sales as well.
Citigroup Inc. (
) slips after saying it has agreed to sell a $1.7 billion portfolio
of private-equity assets to AXA Private Equity, part of AXA SA,
according to the Wall Street Journal and later confirmed by AXA.
The sale is part of Citigroup's strategy to clean up its books in
the wake of the financial crisis, the Journal said.
Merck & Co. (MRK) shares are near the flatline in
regular-session trading while Reuters reports the drug maker
discontinued a trial of a a vaccine against hospital infections
known as methicillin-resistant S. aureus, or MRSA. The decision
reportedly came after experts evaluated the vaccine benefits
against its risks. The vaccine was developed by Intercell. The
decision is the latest in a series of setbacks for the Austrian
Shares of Covidien (
) are higher as Bloomberg reports the maker of surgical products
and medications is looking to sell its pharmaceuticals business in
a transaction that could bring in $3 billion to $4 billion, citing
people familiar with the deal. Covidien has been in discussions
with another health-care firm looking to buy the unit, the report
Shares of Apple (
) are higher as MarketWatch reports the company has become the
largest buyer of chips among computer equipment makers in 2010
thanks to iPhone and iPad demand, citing data released by released
by IHS iSuppli. The report notes that Apple purchased $17.5 billion
in semiconductors in 2010. That was an increase of 79.6% from $9.7
billion in 2009.
Exxon Mobil (XOM) shares are higher after the company said this
morning that it made three deepwater discoveries in the Gulf of
Mexico. The discoveries have a combined estimated reserves of 700
million barrels of oil equivalent. "We estimate a recoverable
resource of more than 700 million barrels of oil equivalent
combined in our Keathley Canyon blocks," said Steve Greenlee,
president of ExxonMobil Exploration, in a statement.
Commodities are mixed as August gold contracts are down 0.41%,
to $1,538 an ounce while July crude oil contacts are up 1.87% to
$100.94 a barrel.
In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 2.54% to
$40.04 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is down 0.41%,
In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (
) is down 0.32% at $149.94. Market Vectors Gold Miners (
) is down 2.29% to $53.42. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is down 0.97%