Mid-Day Update: Stocks Sitting Lower Ahead of EU Summit; ECB Rate Cut Can't Quell Worry

Stocks are down in mid-day trading while a mixed slate of economic data coupled with comments from the European Central Bank president to squelch buyers through the first half of the trading day.

In data released after the opening bell this morning, U.S. wholesale inventories rose 1.6% in October, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported. Wholesale inventory levels are a leading indicator showing how aggressively business are buying at the wholesale level. Compared to October last year, inventories have jumped 10.9% at the wholesale level.

Across the pond, the European Central Bank - as expected - lowered interest rates by 25 basis points to 1%. The Bank of England left interest rates at a record low of 0.5%, as was also expected. ECB President Mario Draghi said at a news conference that the European Union treaty blocks "monetary financing." The comment came in response to a question about why the ECB doesn't ramp up its bond buying program, MarketWatch reported. Instead, Draghi said EU leaders, who are meeting tonight and on into tomorrow to hammer out a solution, have ultimate responsibility to address the crisis.

The nation's employment picture continues to show improvement, The U.S. Department of Labor reported first-time claims for state unemployment benefits fell sharply in the latest week to their lowest level since February.

The number of initial claims in the week ending Dec. 3 fell 23,000 to 381,000. Wall Street Economists had forecast claims would fall 9,000 to 393,000. The number of initial claims in the week ending Dec. 3 fell 23,000 to 381,000; Wall Street economists expected claims would fall 9,000 to 393,000. The four-week average dropped 3,000 to 393,250.

In company news:

Exxon Mobil ( XOM ) shares are down while MarketWatch reports the oil major sees demand for electricity will drive the energy industry. The comments came as a part of its Energy Outlook. The report concluded that natural gas will gain market share while oil will remain the most widely-used fuel.

Shares of Roche Holding ( RHHBY ) and Novartis ( NVS ) are mixed while Bloomberg reports that drugs the two companies are developing that target different drivers of breast cancer showing in separate studies that they slowed tumor progression. The research was released at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

THQ ( THQI ) shares have continued their extended session slide following the video game publisher's warning on its Q3 results. THQI shares are down 14.4%. The company said late Wednesday it now expects to report net sales for the third quarter of approximately 25 percent below its previously announced guidance of $510 million to $550 million. The Street view is for EPS of $1.37 on sales of $529.43 million.

Shares of McDonald's competitor Yum Brands ( YUM ) is looking to become the "McDonald's" (MCD) of China by blanketing the country's third- and second-tier cities with fast-food restaurants, according to a report in the Financial Times. The restaurant chain is looking to more than double its China restaurants by 2020, the report said. YUM shares are unchanged in pre-market trading.

McDonald's shares a firm as the burger chain says that November global comparative sales increased 7.4%, beating the 5% gain analysts had expected.

IBM (IBM) today announced that it will acquire DemandTec (DMAN) in an all cash transaction at a price of $13.20/share, or at a net price of $440 million, after adjusting for cash. IBM expects that the acquisition will help expand its Smarter Commerce initiative by adding DMAN's cloud-based price, promotion and other merchandising and marketing analytics.

Commodities are down as February gold contracts are down 1.73% to $1,714 an ounce while January crude oil contacts are down 1.73% to $98.73 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is down 1.46% to $38.25 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is up 1.2%, to $7.64.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is down 1.69% to $166.58. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is down 2.8% to $57.31. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is down 2.69% to $30.76.

Here's where markets stand at mid-day:

-NYSE down 131.80 (-1.74%) to 7,427.91

-DJIA down 129.84 (-1.06%) to 12,066.53

-S&P 500 down 16.98 (-1.35%) to 1,24.03

-Nasdaq down 23.75 (-0.9%) to 2,625.39


Nikkei down 0.66%

Hang Seng down 0.69%

Shanghai Composite down 0.13%

FTSE-100 down 0.20%

DAX-30 down 0.29%


NYSE Energy down 2.1% at 12,305.21

NYSE Financial down 2.6% at 4,048.89

NYSE Health Care down 0.91% at 6,807.60

NYSE Arca Tech 100 down 0.65% at 1,099.89


(+) MCD, (+1.4%) November global comp sales increased 7.4%

(+) PSUN, (+20%) Upgraded to Neutral from Underweight at Piper Jaffray

(+) GIII, (+21.4%) Reported Q3 sales better than the analyst consensus

(+) AFFY, (+40.5%) FDA committee votes in favor of anemia treatment


(-) AIS, (-6.5%) Oxybutynin gel receives FDA approval

(-) CREE, (-6.3%) Downgraded to Equalweight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley

(-) MEI, (-6.9%) Swings to profit in Q2; reaffirms FY12, FY13 outlook

(-) TSLA, (-10.4%) Cut to Underweight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley

(-) COST, (-1.6%) Q1 EPS in line, revenue just beats street view

(-) CLWR, (-5.0%) prices upsized offering.

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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