Dow, S&P Explore Record Terrain; Herbalife Shares Continue to Thin Down
U.S. equities have resumed their 2013 bull run, with the Dow and S&P 500 surging to all-time highs on the back of supportive trade deficit data out of China, and an early, accidental release of Fed minutes. Market participants cheered the surprise news that China swung to a trade deficit in March, while forecasts had expected a surplus of $14.7 billion. Meanwhile, investors got a premature glimpse of where the Fed stands on future monetary policy, which has also helped fuel today's powerful rally.
The latest Fed minutes were sent out early by mistake to Capitol Hill staffers and trade groups on Tuesday. In response, the Fed submitted the minutes at 9 a.m. ET Wednesday, rather than the expected 2 p.m. ET. The minutes showed a division between Federal Reserve officials over how long they should keep buying bonds.
One member wanted to slow the bond purchases immediately. Others favored slowing the purchases at midyear, with the program ending later in 2013, while some believe that if labor conditions improve, the Fed could slow purchases "later in the year and stop them by year-end." Two members think purchases should continue at the current pace at least through the end of the year.
Overseas, European and Asian stocks were moving higher, with a relatively strong showing across the board in the Eurozone. Bourses there were trading between 1.3% to 2.2% higher, primarily on news that China weighed in with a March trade deficit of $880 million. Asian markets posted more modest gains.
In individual stock news of note, shares of Herbalife ( HLF ) defied the tape and fell for the 5th consecutive session. Allegations of insider trading and news that KPMG has resigned as the company's auditor has contributed to the downdraft. HLF was down 0.7% at $36.68 at mid-day, after trading as low as $36.02 earlier in the session.
With the exception of natural gas, commodities were lower, with crude oil inching $0.03 lower to trade at $94.17 per barrel. Natural gas was up sharply, adding $0.122 to $4.139 per million BTUs.
Gold futures were down on news that Cyprus was selling $523 million in gold as part of the country's bailout effort. At mid-day, gold was off $16.90 per ounce at $1,569.80. Silver was down $0.276 to $27.605 per ounce. Copper was down $0.0245 to $3.417.
Here's where the markets stood at mid-day:
NYSE Composite up 93.33 (+1.03%) to 9,181.70
Dow Jones Industrial Average up 126.88 (+0.86%) to 14,800.34
S&P 500 up 17.21 (+1.10%) to 1,585.82
Nasdaq Composite Index up 53.68 (+1.66%) to 3,291.54
Nikkei 225 Index up 0.75%
Hang Seng Index up 0.73%
Shanghai China Composite Index down 0.29%
FTSE 100 Index up 0.01%
DAX up 2.18%
CAC 40 up 2.13%
NYSE SECTOR INDICES:
NYSE Energy Sector Index (^NYE) up 87.39 (+0.67%) to 13,180.07
NYSE Financial Sector Index (^NYK) up 87.59 (+1.59%) to 5,585.37
NYSE Healthcare Sector Index (^NYP) up 76.68 (+0.85%) to 9,065.77
(+) PPHM (+1.5%) Shares held on to gains after the company presented data at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. Data was on preclinical studies investigating the immune-stimulating mechanism of action of Peregrine's lead phosphatidylserine (PS)-targeting oncology clinical candidate bavituximab and the anti-tumor and imaging potential of other PS-targeting molecules.
(+) DRWI (+10.3%) Stock surged after the company announced changes to its existing operational framework with Nokia Siemens Networks. In line with the renewed framework, DragonWave will continue to be the preferred, strategic supplier to Nokia Siemens Networks of packet microwave and related products, and the companies will jointly coordinate technology development activities.
(+) MTL (+8.6%) Stock lifted after the company signed an agreement with VTB Bank for a 40-billion-ruble (approximately 1.3-billion-dollar) loan that will be used to refinance MTL's current debt.
(-) TITN (-16.9%) Shares slid after the company reported Q4 revenue of $784.5 million, vs. the analyst consensus of $694 million on Capital IQ. EPS was $0.73, below the Street view of $0.92 per share, if comparable. For FY 2014, the company expects revenue in the range of $2.35 to $2.55 bln and EPS of $2 to $2.30 per share. The Street is at $2.26 bln in revenue and earnings of $2.59 per share.
(-) WDAY (-0.6%) Stock labored after 63 million share lockup expiration hits. According to Seeking Alpha, the lockup expiration will increase WDAY's float to 89 million shares from the current 26 million.