Mid-Day Update: Stocks Drift Lower in Directionless Trade; Euro-Zone News Sets Early Tone
Stocks are drifting lower at mid-day, with the major indices pulled underwater by a slide in energy stocks as crude oil prices retreat. Technology and consumer staple shares are flat to slightly lower as most industry sectors in the S&P 500 remain solidly in negative territory.
More gloomy news out of Europe appears to have set the tone for stocks early with Spanish officials raising the country's likely budget deficit target for 2012 as the region's economic slump takes a bite out of tax revenues. Retail sales in Germany also fell during January from the prior month, declining 1.6% following a 0.1% gain in December, according to the Federal Statistics Office. Economists forecast a gain of 0.5%, according to a Bloomberg News survey.
There were no major U.S. economic data scheduled for release today. Monthly employment figures, usually released on the first Friday of each month, were postponed to March 9 by the Labor Department because of the short turn-around since the end of February as well as the shortened length of the data period it presents.
In corporate news, shares of online business-review website Yelp Inc ( YELP ) rise as much as 73% during its first day of trading after last night pricing its initial public offering of 7.15 million shares at $15 each. The deal went out above its expected $12 to $14 a share range and will generate about $123 million in gross proceeds, less offering costs. Shares shot up to a peak of $26 each soon after the start of the regular session and have eased only slightly to around $24.15 a share -- a level that values the firm at nearly $1.5 billion.
Sara Lee Corp ( SLE ) is ahead about 5% after saying it can now go ahead with plans to spin off its coffee and tea business into a publicly listed entity on the Amsterdam stock exchange. SLE expects to pay a special dividend of $3 a share to its shareholders immediately after the spinoff, forecast to be completed by the end of June.
Shutterfly Inc. ( SFLY ) is 18% higher after the Internet-based photo and digital image firm agreed to buy certain assets, including Kodak Gallery customer accounts and images in the United States and Canada from Eastman Kodak Co, for $23.8 million. Kodak Gallery enables users to store and share their own images and create custom printed photobooks and cards, much like SFLY also does, has more than 75 million users.
DCP Midstream Partners LP ( DPM ) slides 4.2% after the natural gas limited partnership launched a public offering of 4.75 million common units priced at $47.42 each. DCM said it plans to use proceeds to repay outstanding debt under its revolving credit facility and for general partnership purposes.
Commodities are mostly lower, with gold for April delivery down $7.60 at $1.714.30 an ounce while silver futures are 86.6 cents lower at $34.745 per ounce in New York Comex trading. Copper is off nearly 2 cents at $3.9055 a pound.
Crude oil was down $1.42 in late-morning trading at $107.35 a barrel for the April NYMEX contract. Brent crude is off $1.83 at $124.37 a barrel. April natural gas is up slightly more than a penny at $2.476 per 1 million British Thermal Units.
Among energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund is down 1.63% at $41.07 with the United States Natural Gas Fund up 0.41% at $19.63. Among precious-metal ETFs, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF is down 1.11% at $55.27 while the SPDR Gold Trust is up 0.03% to $166.66. The iShares Silver Trust is 1.31% lower at $33.99.
Here's where the market stand at mid-day:
NYSE Composite Index down 50.80 (-0.62%) at 8,124.31.
Dow Jones Industrial Average down 24.34 (-0.19%) at 12,955.96.
S&P 500 down 4.10 (-0.30%) at 1,369.99.
NASDAQ Composite Index down 7.92 (-0.26%) at 2,981.05.
Nikkei 225 up 0.72%.
Hang Seng Index up 0.81%.
China Shanghai Composite Index up 1.43%.
FTSE 100 down 0.34%.
NYSE SECTOR INDICES
NYSE Energy Index down 0.73% to 13,517.70.
NYSE Financial Index down 0.20% to 4,661.79.
NYSE Healthcare Index down 0.45% to 7,217.44.
NYSE Arca Tech 100 Index up 0.62% to 1,246.92.
(+) XLS, (+3.9%) Guides FY12 EPS, revenues well above Street.
(+) DRRX, (+6.8%) Trims Q4 net loss; regains marketing rights to Eladure pain patch.
(-) MOTR, (-6.8%) Narrows Q4 net loss but revenues miss estimates by nearly 19%.
(-) CISG, (-8.1%) Q4 EPS, revenues miss lone analyst's call.
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