Stocks Mixed as Middle East Developments, Wholesale Inventories Draw Investor Interest
Stocks are mixed as investors gauge continuing conflict in the Middle East and North Africa along with new data that showed a rise in wholesale inventories that topped expectations.
New data showed U.S. wholesale inventories increased more-than-expected, rising 1.1% to a seasonally-adjusted $436.88 billion in January. That is the highest level since November 2008. Economists had expected a 0.9% increase.
In company news:
ING Groep ( ING ) is preparing to sell its US online-banking division in a move to meet European Union conditions for the bank's bailout, Bloomberg reports. A spokesman for the Amsterdam-based bank said "we agreed with the European Commission to sell ING Direct USA before 2013, as well as our insurance and investment management operations."
Walgreen ( WAG ) says it will sell its pharmacy benefit management business, Walgreens Health Initiatives, Inc, to Catalyst Health Solutions, Inc. ( CHSI ) for $525 million in cash. The transaction is expected to close by the end of June. Walgreen will provide certain services to CHSI after closing to facilitate a smooth transition for existing customers and patients.
Dynegy ( DYN ) is down after the company said in an SEC filing it may be forced to file for bankruptcy protection, according to a Marketwatch report. The company said it may not be able to comply with debt payments by Q3 or Q4 of this year, the report said.
Shares of Merck ( MRK ) are higher after the drug maker said that the new drug application for SAFLUTAN (tafluprost), its investigational preservative-free prostaglandin analogue ophthalmic solution, has been accepted for standard review by the FDA. According to the company, it submitted an NDA to support the proposed use of SAFLUTAN for the reduction of elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) in patients with primary open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension.
Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B), the investment firm run by Warren Buffet, took $2.25 billion in dividends from Burlington Northern in less than 13 months of ownership, reports Bloomberg. That amount is nearly triple the payout from the railroad prior to the firm's acquisition of it in February of last year.
BP PLC (BP) is down even as oil trades above $105 a barrel, after Chief Executive Bob Dudley apologized for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill during a major oil industry conference. Dudley assured the audience BP is working to prevent a recurrence of last year's Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill that killed 11 workers and led to a ban on deepwater drilling in the Gulf. He said BP already has stopped production at two platforms and closed a pipeline to address maintenance issues, according to the AP.
In earnings news:
--Shares of Finisar (FNSR), down 38% this morning, ADRs of Alcatel-Lucent (ALU), down 2.5%, shares of Ciena (CIEN), down 6.5%, Oclaro (OCLR), down 13%, and JDS Uniphase (JDSU), down 14%, all in the wake of a worrisome outlook from Finisar.
--Shares of Texas Instruments (TXN) are tipping lower after it said it expects Q1 revenue in the range of $3.34 to $3.48 bln, within its previous guidance range of $3.27 to $3.55 bln and in line to just below the Street view. EPS are seen in the range of $0.56 to $0.60 per share, vs. previous expectations of $0.54 to $0.62 per share and the Street view of $0.59 per share.
--The Children's Place (PLCE) reports Q4 sales of $453.2 mln, below the analyst consensus of $467 mln on Thomson Reuters. Adjusted EPS was $1.22 per share, vs. estimates of $1.01 per share. The company also announced its board authorized a new share repurchase program in the amount of $100 million.
--Shares of Boston Beer Co. (SAM) are sharply lower after the beer maker reported yesterday that Q4 EPS of $0.87 compared to $0.52 a year earlier but below the Street view for $0.90. Revenue improved to $126.3 million, up from $117.5 million. The Street was at $118.5 million. The company guides for FY EPS at $3.45 to $3.95, straddling the Street view for $3.51.
--TICC Capital (TICC) falls after it says it had net investment income of $0.24 per share in Q4, below the Thomson Reuters mean for a quarter.
--The Bon-Ton Stores (BONT) rises after it says Q4 sales were $1.01 billion, just below the Thomson Reuters mean for $1.02 billion. Net income was $4.41 per share. The Thomson Reuters mean, usually less items, was $4.30. 2011 EPS are seen between $1.00 to $1.50.
Commodities are mixed. April gold contracts are up $1, or 0.08%, to $1,428 an ounce while April crude oil contacts are up 0.30%, or $0.31, at $104.71 a barrel.
In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is down 0.02% to $42.30 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is up $0.11, or 1.04%, to $10.43.
In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 0.01% to $139.38. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is down 0.54% to $59.09. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is down 0.43% to $35.03.