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Mid-Day ETF Update: ETFs, Stocks Firmer as Yellen Speech Offsets Disappointing Chicago PMI

Active broad-market exchange-traded funds in Monday's regular session:

SPDR S&P 500 ( SPY ): +0.75%

iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index ( EEM ): +1.04%

PowerShares QQQ Trust, Series 1 ( QQQ ): +1.08%

iShares Russell 2000 Index ( IWM ): +1.43%

iPath S&P 500 VIX ST Futures ( VXX ): -1.72%

Broad Market Indicators

Most broad market exchange-traded funds were firmer. Actively traded PowerShares QQQ ( QQQ ) was up 1%.

U.S. stocks were in positive territory, despite disappointing data from the Chicago regional manufacturing survey, which missed estimates, and showed a reading of 55.9 - the lowest in seven months. However, a reading above 50 would indicate an expansion from the prior month. Investors instead focused on the U.S. monetary policy comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. She acknowledged the weakness in the jobs market and said that central bank policy is still needed to support it.

Power Play: Technology

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 higher. SPDR S&P International Technology Sector ETF (IPK) was flat.

Among semiconductor ETFs, SPDR S&P Semiconductor (XSD) was up 1.77%, and Semiconductor Sector Index Fund (SOXX) was up 1.8%.

In stocks news, BlackBerry Ltd. (BBRY) shares were down 3% after a few analyst downgrades Monday. Among them, Credit Suisse lowered its rating from Underweight to Equal Weight, with its price target lowered to $6 from $7. And, Evercore Partners downgraded the stock to Underweight from Equal Weight with its price target also lowered to $6 from $7. However, BBRY was also upgraded to a Hold rating from Underperform Monday at Needham & Company. Price target information was not available.

Winners and Losers

Financial

Select Financial Sector SPDRs (XLF) was up 1%, and near its five-year high. Direxion Daily Financial Bull 3X shares (FAS) was up 3.24%. Its bearish counterpart, FAZ, was down 3.23%.

Among sector news, General Electric (GE) edged higher after it said it is considering selling its GE Money Bank unit in the Nordic Region, Reuters reported, citing unnamed people with knowledge of the matter. The unit could be worth as much as 2 billion euros ($2.75 billion), Reuters said. GE has previously said it plans to shift its earnings mix to 70% industrial and 30% financial. GE Capital contributed 45% of earnings in 2012.

Energy

Dow Jones U.S. Energy Fund (IYE) and Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) were both firmer, and reached new multi-year highs.

In corporate news, Miller Energy Resources Inc. (MILL) was up 3% after the oil and gas company resolved a simmering proxy fight with Bristol Capital Advisors by agreeing to expand its board by one seat and naming former New Mexico Governor and former U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson as a director. Bristol Capital, led by Paul Kessler, and Lone Star Management LLC have been battling the MILL board and management since December when the hedge funds proposed an alternative slate of board candidates as part of a broader efforts to "unlock" value at the company. MILL also named John Brawley as its new CFO on Feb. 12. Boruff will remain CEO and will also keep his board seat. MILL's annual meeting of shareholders is scheduled for April 16 in Knoxville, Tenn.

Commodities

Crude was up 0.08%; United States Oil Fund (USO) was up 0.03%. Natural gas was down 3.08%; United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG) was down 2.96%.

Gold was down 0.52% and silver was up 0.03%. Among rare metal funds, SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) was down 0.51%; iShares Silver Trust (SLV) was down 0.16%.

Healthcare and Biotechnology

Health care funds Health Care SPDR (XLV), Vanguard Health Care ETF (VHT) and iShares Dow Jones US Healthcare (IYH) were firmer. Biotech ETF iShares NASDAQ Biotechnology Index (IBB) was up 2.64%.

In corporate news, Momenta Pharmaceuticals (MNTA) was down 15% as the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Teva Pharmaceutical's (TEVA) appeal of a July 2013 ruling which previously invalidated five of TEVA's COPAXONE patents. The news may delay efforts by rivals MNTA, Mylan (MYL) and Novartis AG's (NVS) Sandoz to start selling a generic COPAXONE version later this year after the remaining patents expire. TEVA asserts a proposed generic relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) COPAXONE product could lead to immunogenic effects in patients. Without a reversal of the July 2013 ruling, TEVA's exclusivity will expire May 24. TEVA shares was up 5%.

Consumer

Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP), Vanguard Consumer Staples ETF (VDC) and iShares Dow Jones US Consumer Goods (IYK) were firmer.

Among stocks, Cal-Maine Foods (CALM) was up 8.67% after the company said Q3 net income was $42.9 million, or $1.77 per diluted share, up from $30.6 million, or $1.27 per diluted share, a year earlier. An analyst had called for earnings of $1.31 per diluted share, according to Capital IQ. Net sales rose to $395.5 million from $360.4 million, topping the $358 million analyst forecast. Furthermore, the company raised its dividend for Q3 to $0.591 per common share from $0.361 per share in the previous quarter. The Q3 dividend is payable on May 15 to shareholders of record on April 30.

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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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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