Active broad market exchange-traded funds at mid-day:
SPDR S&P 500 ( SPY ): +0.37%, near its 52-week high;
Financial Select Sector SPDR ( XLF ): +0.2%, near its 52-week high;
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index ( EEM ): +1.09%;
iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures TM ( VXX ): -1.45%, with a new 52-week low of $20.13;
iShares MSCI Japan Index ( EWJ ): +0.47%, near its 52-week high
Broad Market Indicators
Broad-market exchange-traded funds, including SPY, IWM, IVV and others, continued to be firmer. Actively traded PowerShares QQQ (QQQ) was up 0.26%.
U.S. stocks also extended gains into the session's half, bolstered by mostly upbeat economic data. The January S&P/Case-Shiller home price index inched up 0.1% - the highest reading since September 2010, according to MarketWatch.
Earlier data were also positive -- durable goods orders for February increased by 5.7%, topping expectations; excluding transportation, durable goods orders slipped 0.5%. Consumer confidence for March, however, declined to a reading of 59.7 from 68.0 in February.
Winners and Losers
Select Financial Sector SPDRs ( XLF ) was up 0.22%, near its 52-week high. Direxion Daily Financial Bull 3X shares (FAS) was up 0.86%. Its bearish counterpart, FAZ, was down 0.84% near its 52-week low.
Among financial stocks, Fiserv, Inc. (FISV) was up 0.13% after it said that it has partnered with a Romanian solution integrator, Eutron Invest Romania, to provide the entire Cash and Logistics solution portfolio from Fiserv to the Romanian market. The solution portfolio will primarily focus on the Integrated Currency Manager cash management system, Device Manager and CorPoint, the end-to-end cash management system for retailers.
Tech ETFs were higher: Technology Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLK), up 0.40%; iShares Dow Jones US Technology ETF (IYW), up 0.26%; iShares S&P North American Technology ETF (IGM), up 0.39%; and iShares S&P North American Technology-Software Index (IGV), up 0.13%.
Among semiconductor ETFs, SPDR S&P Semiconductor (XSD) was up 0.35% and Semiconductor Sector Index Fund (SOXX) was up 0.34%.
SPDR S&P International Technology Sector ETF (IPK) was up 0.95%.
In sector news, BlackBerry (BBRY) was up 1.73% after it confirmed that it has added new television content for BlackBerry 10 customers in the U.S. The flagship BlackBerry device will now have access to TV shows from PBS, Univision and Viacom through the BlackBerry World storefront.
Dow Jones U.S. Energy Fund (IYE) was up 0.69% and Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) was up 0.66%.
In sector news, Bristow Group Inc. (BRS) was up 2.06%, and touched a new 52-week high of $66.51. The company announced that The Department for Transport in the UK has awarded its UK affiliate Bristow Helicopters Limited a new contract to provide civilian Search and Rescue (SAR) services for all of the UK.
The SAR services contract has a phased-in transition period beginning in April 2015 and continuing to July 2017 and a contract length of approximately 10 years. Under the terms of the contract, Bristow Helicopters currently anticipates earning approximately $2.5 billion in revenue.
Crude was up 0.59%; natural gas was up 0.93%. United States Oil Fund (USO) was up 0.83% and United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG) was up 1.08%.
Gold was down 0.41% and silver was down 0.43%. Among rare metal funds, SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) was down 0.34%; iShares Silver Trust (SLV) was down 0.32%.
Consumer ETFs are firmer at mid-day: Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP), up 0.69%, with a new 52-week high of $39.58; iShares Dow Jones US Consumer Goods (IYK), up 0.73%; and Vanguard Consumer Staples ETF (VDC), up 0.59%, with a new 52-week high of $100.13.
Retail ETFs were mostly higher: PowerShares Dynamic Retail (PMR), up 0.58%, with a new 52-week high of $27.91, and Market Vectors Retail ETF (RTH), up 0.18%, with a new 52-week high of $48.89. SPDR S&P Retail (XRT) was down 0.40% but near its 52-week high.
In sector news, Sonic (SONC) rose 8.61%, hitting a fresh new 52-week high of $12.931, after it reported late Monday Q2 EPS of $0.05 per share ex items, vs. the analyst consensus of $0.05 per share on Capital IQ. Revenue was $115 mln, vs. expectations of $113 mln. For FY 2013, the company expects same store sales growth in the positive low single digit range.
Power Play -
Healthcare ETFs are firmer in mid-day action: Health Care SPDR (XLV), up 0.76%, with a new 52-week high of $45.25; Vanguard Health Care ETF (VHT), up 0.62%, with a new 52-week high of $81.59; and iShares Dow Jones US Healthcare (IYH), up 0.68%, with a new 52-week high of $94.82. Biotech ETF iShares NASDAQ Biotechnology Index (IBB) was also higher, up 0.05%.
Among stocks, ZIOPHARM Oncology (ZIOP) continued to underperform the healthcare sector and broader market, down 61.60% at last check. It touched a new 52-week low of $1.76, after reporting disappointing phase 3 trial results. It has since firmed to just above the $2 mark. Earlier, the company said its Phase 3 trial of palifosfamide (ZIO-201) for the treatment of metastatic soft tissue sarcoma in the first-line setting (PICASSO 3) did not meet its primary endpoint of progression-free survival (PFS).
The study's independent data monitoring committee (IDMC) has recommended that patients be followed for overall survival (OS), the study's secondary endpoint, however the company does not expect to continue follow up for OS. Palifosfamide was well tolerated, with a safety profile in combination with doxorubicin observed in the study comparable with other palifosfamide clinical trials in soft tissue sarcoma.
Full data from PICASSO 3 will be submitted for publication in a scientific journal. With this outcome, ZIOPHARM has made the decision to immediately place exclusive strategic focus on its synthetic biology programs, which are being developed in partnership with Intrexon Corporation.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.
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