Active broad-market exchange-traded funds in Wednesday's regular session:
SPDR S&P 500 ( SPY ): -0.07%, near record high
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index ( EEM ): -0.14%
iShares MSCI Japan ( EWJ ): -1.14%
iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ( VXX ): -0.28%
iShares MSCI Brazil Index ( EWZ ): +0.10%
Broad Market Indicators
Broad-market exchange-traded funds, including SPY, IWM and IVV were higher pre-bell. Likewise, actively traded PowerShares QQQ (QQQ) was inactive.
U.S. stock futures are pointing to a higher open, buoyed by optimism the U.S. Federal Reserve will keep rates on hold. After a two-day policy meeting, the Fed said rates will continue to remain low for some "considerable time." Among economic news, the Commerce Department will report new housing data at 8:30 a.m. in Washington. The figures are likely to show housing starts dropped 5.2% to 1.04 million in August.
Power Play: Health Care
Health Care SPDR (XLV), iShares Dow Jones US Healthcare (IYH) and Vanguard Health Care ETF (VHT) are flat pre-bell. Most touched record highs on Wednesday and closed firmer. Biotech ETF iShares NASDAQ Biotechnology Index (IBB) was up 0.52%.
Auxilium Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (AUXL), a specialty biopharmaceutical company, reported the first presentation of positive safety and efficacy data from the AUX-CC-867 MULTICORD (MULtiple Treatment Investigation of Collagenase Optimizing the Resolution of Dupuytrens) Phase 3b study.
This study evaluated collagenase clostridium histolyticum for the treatment of two Dupuytren's cords concurrently in the same hand. In addition, the study examined expanded flexibility with timing of the finger extension procedure.
Winners and Losers
Select Financial Sector SPDRs (XLF) closed higher after setting a 6-year high. Direxion Daily Financial Bull 3X shares (FAS) hit a record high. Both are inactive pre-bell. Bearish counterpart, FAZ, was down 0.5%.
Visa (V) said Thursday said it was exploring options on its 5.5% stake in Monitise (MONI:LN)), a British mobile banking technology company. MONI's shares fell 25.88%.
V first took a stake on MONI in 2009, but said it would reduce its dependence on external mobile development resources. V has retained investment banking shop J.P. Morgan Securities to advise on MONI.
Technology Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLK), iShares Dow Jones US Technology ETF (IYW), iShares S&P North American Technology ETF (IGM) and iShares S&P North American Technology-Software Index (IGV) were mostly higher Wednesday and are unchanged so far pre-bell. SPDR S&P International Technology Sector ETF (IPK) was also flat.
Among semiconductor ETFs, SPDR S&P Semiconductor (XSD) and Semiconductor Sector Index Fund (SOXX) closed higher and were inactive pre-market.
Yahoo! (YHOO) shares are up almost 1% in pre-market trading Thursday, ahead of the pricing of an IPO for Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA), which is expected to produce a windfall for the U.S. online search engine.
According to a Reuters report, Yahoo is expected to sell about $9.5 billion of Alibaba stock in the IPO, which is expected to leave it with a net $3.1 billion to add to its current $4.2 billion cash pile. That will give the company a war chest for further acquisitions.
Alibaba shares are expected to be priced after the markets close at 4 p.m. Thursday and start trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday under the ticker "BABA."
Dow Jones U.S. Energy Fund (IYE) closed lower and is unchanged; Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) gained after-hours after a lower close but is inactive pre-market.
Foster Wheeler (FWLT) said Thursday today it plans to build a refinery in a U.S. Gulf Coast state that converts natural gas to gasoline, in collaboration with privately held ZeoGas LLC.
The terms of the collaboration were not disclosed, and cost estimates for the refinery are being developed.
ZeoGas said it converts a variety of feedstocks to synthesis gas and then to transportation fuels. ZeoGas recently announced it has licensed ExxonMobil (XOM) technology to convert methanol to gasoline. ZEOGas said the planned Gulf State refinery was based on proven, commercial-scale technologies, and would take advantage of plentiful natural gas supplies in the United States.
Crude was edging higher United States Oil Fund (USO) was up 0.26%. Natural gas was down 0.4% and United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG) was flat.
Gold was down 0.9%, while silver fell 1.1%. Among rare metal funds, SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) slipped 0.3% and iShares Silver Trust (SLV) dropped 0.7%.
Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP), iShares Dow Jones US Consumer Goods (IYK), and Vanguard Consumer Staples ETF (VDC) closed lower.
ConAgra Foods (CAG) reported fiscal Q1 earnings that were ahead of analysts' estimates while sales were slightly shy of the Street's view.
The packaged food company said adjusted earnings in the 13 weeks ended Aug. 24 rose to $0.39 per share from $0.37 the year earlier, exceeding the $0.35 average estimate from analysts polled by Capital IQ. Sales edged down 0.4% to $3.7 billion, slightly shy of the $3.72 billion consensus estimate.
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