Stocks Mixed; Investors Await Fed Policy Statement, While Digesting Durable Goods Data
Stocks are mixed in mid-day trading as investors await the monetary policy announcement from the Federal Open Market Committee due at 12:30 PM EST.
U.S. orders for durable goods rose 2.5% in March, marking the third straight increase, though shy of expectations for a 3% gain. Orders for February were also revised to show a 0.7% increase instead of an originally reported decline, according to Commerce Department data. Factoring out the volatile transportation sector, orders rose a smaller 1.3%. Shipments of core capital equipment goods, which the government uses to help calculate gross domestic product, climbed 2.2% in March after just a 0.4% gain in February and a 2.5% decline in January, MarketWatch reported.
The Fed is widely expected to continue its policy of targeting a federal-funds rate between 0% and 0.25% and its purchase of $600 billion of government debt by the end of June. But markets want some clue on how long such accommodative policy will remain in place and the Fed's latest assessment of economic strength. The Federal Open Market Committee will announce its decision in a statement at 12:30 p.m. U.S. ET. The news conference is set for 2:15 p.m.
In company news:
Citigroup ( C ) shares are flat after Reuters reported that the bank is in the process of moving executives to Brazil as a part of a push to boost growth in emerging economies, citing comments from CEO Vikram Pandit. In making a moves to encompass Brazil in its business, the bank is trying to work into emerging markets to take advantage of increased trade and capital flows, the report said.
Rite Aid ( RAD ) today announced that it has seen 0.5% increase in its same-store sales for April. Front-end same-store sales slipped 0.4% while pharmacy same-store sales, which included about a 133-basis-point negative impact from new generic introductions, increased 1%. Prescription count at comparable stores also increased 0.7% over the prior-year period.
Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ ) shares are higher as the company said entered into a definitive agreement whereby Johnson & Johnson will acquire Synthes for $21.3 billion. Upon completion of this transaction, Synthes and the DePuy Companies of Johnson & Johnson together will comprise the largest business within the Medical Devices and Diagnostics segment of Johnson & Johnson.
Apple Inc. ( AAPL ) shares are down after it said this morning that iPhone customers are not being tracked and planned to add software that collects less sensitive location data. "Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone," the company said in a statement today. "Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so."
In earnings news:
--ConocoPhillips ( COP ) today announced that first quarter earnings increased 43% due to higher oil prices, sending adjusted net income up to $2.6 billion, or $1.82 per share, compared with adjusted earnings of $2.2 billion, or $1.47 per share, for the same period in 2010. Revenue also grew 27% to $58.25 billion. Analysts had expected the company to earn $1.93 per share, ex special items, according to FactSet. Analysts also expected revenues of $53.4 billion.
--Barclays (BCS) said Q1 net profit fell 5% to 1 billion pounds ($1.65 billion), from the period a year earlier. Top-line revenue fell 8% to 7.4 billion pounds.
--Martha Stewart Living (MSO) today reported a wider Q1 operating loss of $6.8 million or $0.13 loss per share, compared with $3.4 million or $0.07 loss per share for the same period in 2010. Quarterly revenues fell 0.9% year-over-year to $52.7 million from $53.2 million. Analysts had expected the company to post a loss of $0.12 per share on revenues of $$49.1 million, according to the Thomson Reuters consensus poll.
Commodities are higher. June gold contracts are up 0.39%, to $1,509 an ounce while May crude oil contacts are up 0.47% to $112.74 a barrel.
In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 0.47 to $44.69 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is down 0.35%, to $11.43.
In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 0.42% at $146.99. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is down 0.66% to $59.82. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 0.27% to $44.15.