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Stocks Start 2011 in Strong Advance; Latest Data Shows Economy Moving Ahead

By: MT Newswires
Posted: 1/3/2011 12:40:00 PM
Referenced Stocks: AAPL;BAC;GOOG;JNJ;XOM

Stocks are rallying in mid-day trading as all 30 Dow Jones Industrial Average components gain on new data that showed manufacturing and construction spending expanding although the former disappointed analysts.

In the latest economic data, the Institute for Supply Management said its index of factory activity rose to 57 in December from 56.6 in November. Economists polled by, however, expected the index to reach 57.5.

Meanwhile, November construction spending posted the third straight monthly gain, according to the Commerce Department, rising by 0.4%, ahead of analysts' consensus call for a 0.2% gain. But the level of spending is still down 6% compared with a year earlier.

In the latest company news:

Google Inc. ( GOOG ) is gathering publisher support for a digital newsstand for users of devices that run its Android software, the Wall Street Journal reports. That would be a direct challenge to Apple's ( AAPL ) offering via its iTunes stores.

Meanwhile, Apple's market capitalization topped $300 billion this morning in what Fortune magazine called an important psychological barrier for the stock. Apple has been the most valuable tech stock and has been the world's second most valuable company after Exxon Mobil ( XOM ), which has a market cap of $375 billion.

Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ ) is sharply higher early Monday with the health care giant expected to announce later today it is joining forces with Boston-area scientists to market an ultra-sensitive blood-test for cancer, according to the Associated Press.

Bank of America ( BAC ) is higher after announcing this morning that it will take a $2 billion charge against Q4 earnings to settle buyback claims on home loans sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The bank also expects to take a $3 billion provision to repurchase obligations.

Barnes & Noble (BKS) is firmer after it says preliminary bookstore holiday comparable store sales were 9.7% for the nine-week period ending Jan. 1. It says it had its largest retail sales day ever in the company's nearly 40-year history on Dec. 23.

Inspire Pharmaceuticals (ISPH) has lost nearly two-thirds of its value after it announced the top-line results from its second Phase 3 clinical trial, TIGER-2, with denufosol tetrasodium for the treatment of cystic fibrosis (CF). The trial did not achieve statistical significance for its primary efficacy endpoint, which was change from baseline in FEV1 (Forced Expiratory Volume in One Second) at the Week 48 Endpoint (48 weeks or last observation carried forward).

JPMorgan Chase (JPM) shares are higher following a Bloomberg report saying the bank kept its place as the top underwriter of U.S. investment-grade corporate bonds. The bank managed 13.8% of new issues with $101.6 billion in offerings in 496 deals.

The Clorox Co. (CLX) announced fiscal Q2 estimates that were sharply below the Street, led by a decline in sales of 3% to 4% versus the prior year quarter. For the year, it sees sales between flat to 1% higher. The company also announced a noncash goodwill impairment charge to adjust the carrying value of the goodwill related to its acquisition of Burt's Bees to estimated fair value.

Shares of Medco Health Solutions (MHS) are higher after the company said this morning that does not see a material effect on its financials from the loss of a Medicare drug contract with Universal American Corp. (UAM). The company said this morning that it has received notice of termination, effective December 31, 2011, of its Medicare Part D prescription benefits management agreement with MemberHealth, LLC, a subsidiary of Universal American.

Magic Software (MGIC) are higher after saying Senoglu Yazilim A S will distribute MGIC's products to new customers and partners throughout Turkey. Senoglu Yazilim commits a minimum of $700,000 over the next three years to distribute MGIC's products through Turkey.

Exxon Mobil ( XOM ) shut down an oil and gas production platform in the Gulf of Mexico because of a small leak, Reuters reported, citing a filing with the U.S. National Response Center. The leak is characterized as a pinhole leak in a fuel scrubber that led to the discharge of about five gallons of natural gas into the Gulf.

Commodities are mixed. February gold contracts are down $3, or 0.2%, to $1,418 an ounce while February crude oil contacts are up 0.97%, or $0.89, at $92.26 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 0.77% to $39.30 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is up 4.48% to $6.26.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is down 0.26% to $138.36. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is down 0.6% to $61.10. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 0.2% to $30.24.