Mid-Day Update: Stocks Slip Despite ECB Move

Stocks are down at mid-day as hope faded that banks would use the European Central Bank's massive funding operation to buy regional sovereign debt and help mend the deep-rooted debt crisis.

The ECB said 523 banks requested 489 billion euro ($641 billion) in the central bank's long-term funding operation. A consensus of analysts polled by Reuters called for funding of 310 billion euros. It's the first three-year financing operation by the European Central Bank to regional lenders. Banks look to increase liquidity amid the sovereign-debt crisis.

Elsewhere, Middle East stocks traded mixed Wednesday. Qatar's average gained in part as upbeat U.S. housing data the day before lifted global investor willingness for risk-taking. Oil prices were higher, supporting stocks.

In data out today, existing home sales in the U.S. rose 4.0% month-over-month in November to 4.42 million annualized units.

In company news:

Shares of KB Home ( KBH ) are higher after the company reports Q4 revenue of $479.9 mln, up from $451 mln a year ago. Earnings were $0.18, vs. $0.23 per share last year. At November 30, the company had 2,156 homes in backlog, up from 1,336 homes in backlog at November 30, 2010. The company's projected future housing revenues in backlog increased 74% to approximately $459.0 million at November 30, from approximately $263.8 million at November 30, 2010.

AstraZeneca ( AZN ) inked deals with two Asian firms a day after getting a double setback for two of its key assets. AZN said it had signed a deal to develop a cancer treatment from Hutchison China MediTech. The company also purchased options on a potential class of diabetes drugs from Astellas Pharma.

Wendy's ( WEN ) is set to take the second spot behind McDonald's ( MCD ) in sales, which are expected to be $8.42 billion, ahead of Burger King, according to research done by Technomic and reported by the Orlando Business Journal. That makes it second behind McDonald's, the report says.

Research In Motion ( RIMM ) is higher following a Wall Street Journal report that Microsoft (MSFT) and Nokia (NOK) in recent months considered making a joint bid for RIMM. The status of the talks is unclear, according to the report.

Oracle (ORCL) said on its conference call it expects Q3 revenue growth in the range of 3% to 7% in constant currency and between 1% and 5% in U.S. dollars. Non-GAAP EPS is seen in the range of $0.56 to $0.59 in constant currency and between $0.55 and $0.58 in U.S. dollars. The Street view is 7% revenue growth and EPS of $0.58 per share.

Shares of ConocoPhillips (COP) are just higher, while the oil firm said the Bohai Bay Compensation Fund will provide compensation for any damages caused by the June 2011 accidents that occurred at the Peng Lai 19-3 field in Bohai Bay. The fund will be independently administered and will provide compensation to affected people, communities and industries near Bohai Bay.

Bank of America Corp. (BAC) is close to settling a U.S. Justice Department probe into whether its Countrywide Financial Corp. unit violated fair-lending practices, said two people with knowledge of the discussions told Bloomberg News.

Commodities are mixed as February gold contracts are down $5.40 to $1,612 an ounce while January crude oil contracts are up $1.18 to $98.42 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 0.99% to $37.90 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is up 0.73%, to $6.94.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is down 0.17% to $156.72. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is down 0.79% to $52.73. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is down 0.73% to $28.55.

Here's where markets stand at mid-day:

-Dow Jones Industrial down 0.69%

-S&P 500 down 0.76%

-Nasdaq 100 down 0.14%


Nikkei up 1.48%

Hang Seng up 1.86%

Shanghai Composite down 1.12%

FTSE-100 down 0.55%

DAX-30 down 0.95%


NYSE Energy down 0.26% at 12,070.34

NYSE Financial down 0.75% at 3,964.97

NYSE Health Care down 0.08% at 6,927.76

NYSE Arca Tech 100 down 2.85% at 1,046.94


(+)RIMM, (+10.1%) Upgraded to Buy from Hold at ThinkEquity, reportedly the subject of M&A interest at Microsoft and Nokia.

(+)DFG, (+73%) Soars on Acquisition by Tokio Marine

(+)LYG, (+4.2%) Upgraded to Outperform from Underperform at Exande BNP Paribas


(-)ORCL, (-13.5%) Downgraded to Underperform from Buy at Credit Agricole after disappointing results, guidance.

(-)SAP, (-7.6%) Tracking Oracle Lower After Disappointing Earnings

(-)JPM, (-0.7%) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Sterne Agee

(-)KMX, (-6.9%) Reports Q3 EPS Miss, Revs In Line

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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