Active broad-market exchange-traded funds at mid-day:
SPDR S&P 500 ( SPY ): +0.7%, touched a new 52-week high of $157.21
iShares MSCI Japan Index ( EWJ ): +1.1%, near its 52-week high
iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures TM ( VXX ): -2.9%, with a new 52-week low of $19.74
iShares Russell 2000 Index ( IWM ): +0.3%
Financial Select Sector SPDR ( XLF ): +0.7%, near its 52-week high
Broad Market Indicators
Broad-market exchange-traded funds, including SPY, IWM, IVV and others, are sharply higher. Actively traded PowerShares QQQ (QQQ) was up 1.1%.
U.S. stocks continue to trade in positive territory, with Consumer stocks sharply higher following better-than-expected February factory orders data, which rose 3%, topping the Briefing.com consensus for a 2.6% increase. Also helping boost market sentiment are car sales - Ford (F) and General Motors (GM) both reporting upbeat sales for March. The website Edmunds.com raised its full year 2013 care sales forecast to 15.5 million vehicles, showing that car shoppers continue to remain resilient despite fiscal issues. Healthcare stocks are also rallying after a favorable ruling was granted regarding Medicare Advantage reimbursement rates.
Winners and Losers
Select Financial Sector SPDRs ( XLF ) was up 0.7%, near its 52-week high. Direxion Daily Financial Bull 3X shares (FAS) was up 1.75%, with a new 52-week high of $55.45. Its bearish counterpart, FAZ, was down 1.7%, with a new 52-week low of $411.66.
Among financial stocks, BGC Partners (BGCP) was up more than 40% after the stock was halted in yesterday's after-hours session. The company late yesterday announced that it has entered into an agreement pursuant to which it will sell its benchmark, on-the-run, U.S. Treasury fully electronic trading platform to NASDAQ OMX Group (NDAQ). Total consideration for this transaction was up to $1.234 billion, consisting of $750 million in cash plus an earn-out of up to $484 million of NASDAQ OMX common stock to be paid ratably over 15 years. NDAQ is down 10%
Tech ETFs were higher in mid-day action: Technology Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLK), down 0.7%; iShares Dow Jones US Technology ETF (IYW), up 0.69%; iShares S&P North American Technology ETF (IGM), up 0.67%; and iShares S&P North American Technology-Software Index (IGV), up 0.35%.
Among semiconductor ETFs, SPDR S&P Semiconductor (XSD) was off 0.7% and Semiconductor Sector Index Fund (SOXX) was down 0.36%.
SPDR S&P International Technology Sector ETF (IPK) was flat.
In sector news, Cleantech Solutions International (CLNT) opened at $3.96 but is now down 4.76% at $3.40 after reporting preliminary annual results of revenues of approximately $57.2 million, as compared with approximately $55.6 million for 2011, and net income of approximately $4.2 million, or $1.58 per share, as compared with net income of approximately $5.8 million, or $2.30 per share for 2011.
Dow Jones U.S. Energy Fund (IYE) was down 0.22% from near year highs, while Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) has lost earlier gains and is now down 0.3%, although it is still near a 52-week high.
In sector news, Synthesis Energy Systems Inc. (SYMX) was up 2%, earlier rising within close range of its 52-week high of $1.53 after announcing plans to jointly market its SES gasification technology with General Electric Co's (GE) GE Packaged Power subsidiary for small-scale power generation. GE shares were up about 1.2% and just shy of year highs. According to the companies, GE's fuel-flexible aeroderivative gas turbines are well suited to use SYMX's syngas fuels produced from ultra-low quality coal, coal wastes and refuse. SYMX and GE recently completed preliminary evaluation of their combined technologies, with the companies now working together on a non-exclusive basis to identify prospective customers seeking to generate between 50 to 10 megawatts of electric power.
Crude was down 0.51%; natural gas was down 1.25%. United States Oil Fund
(USO) was down 0.1%. United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG) was down 1.1%.
Gold slipped lower as stocks rallied, down 1.39% and nearing its 52-week low of $1,545. Silver was also lower, down 2.43%. Among rare metal funds, SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) was down 1.5%; iShares Silver Trust (SLV) was down 2.7%.
Healthcare ETFs are firmer at mid-day: Health Care SPDR (XLV), up 1.45%, with a new 52-week high of $46.76; Vanguard Health Care ETF (VHT), up 1.35%, with a new 52-week high of $84.11; and iShares Dow Jones US Healthcare (IYH), up 1.27%, with a new 52-week high of $97.99. Biotech ETF iShares NASDAQ Biotechnology Index (IBB) was up 1.8%, with a new 52-week high of $162.55.
In corporate news, Obagi Medical Products (OMPI) is up 16% and has posted a new year high $22.96. Earlier, Merz Pharma Group announced what it called a "superior proposal" to acquire the group for cash. Merz said it proposes to acquire all of Obagi's shares for $22 a share cash and the offer was not conditional upon financing or due diligence. Merz said the offer represented a 58% premium to Obagi's closing share price last Thursday, the last trading day prior to the disclosure on Obagi's fourth quarter earnings call that Obagi had engaged a financial advisor to help explore "all opportunities."
Power Play -
Consumer ETFs were firmer following upbeat truck and auto sales figures: Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP), up 1%, touching a new 52-week high of $40.20; iShares Dow Jones US Consumer Goods (IYK), up 0.8%, with a new 52-week high of $85.71; and Vanguard Consumer Staples ETF (VDC), up 1%, with a new 52-week high of $101.63.
In sector news, both General Motors Co. (GM) and Ford (F) have posted impressive March sales numbers. GM said that its March sales results were the best in five years. GM sold 245,950 vehicles in the United States in March, up 6% compared with a year ago. Retail sales increased 4%, fleet sales were up 12% and the fleet mix was 27% of total sales. GM is 1.1% higher.
Meanwhile, Ford shares motored 1.3% higher after the company announced March auto sales increased 6%, its best sales results since May 2007, with car sales even with year ago, utilities up 14% and trucks up 6%. The company's newest lines of vehicles, Fusion and Escape, set all-time monthly sales records. Other auto makers are expected to report their sales figures later today.
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