Mid-Day Update: Stocks Turn Mixed; S&P Ratings, Europe Concerns Weigh

Stocks are mixed to lower in mid-day trading in the wake of Standard & Poor's move to put the ratings of 15 euro-zone nations on negative watch list. The move came amid worries over the debt crisis that has gripped the continent and ahead of a summit of European leaders set for this weekend.

Still, the move by S&P "is killing risk appetite among investors," Bank of America Merrill Lynch strategists wrote in a report, as quoted by MarketWatch. European stocks fell following the downgrade, with Germany's DAX finishing off over 1% and the FTSE off 0.2%.

The Bank of England said it would introduce a liquidity facility because of "continuing exceptional stresses," according to a MarketWatch report on the matter. The facility will help to mitigate risks to financial stability stemming from a market shortage of short-term liquidity, the report said. European banks are mostly lower, with UBS ( UBS ) up 0.2%, or $0.03, to $12.35. CS is down 0.9%. DB is down 1.3% . RBS is down 1.1%.

There are no major economic reports due today.

In mid-day company news:

Shares of Chevron ( CVX ) are higher while Bloomberg reports that the company could be fined $84 million by Rio de Janiero for environmental damage due to the oil spill at the company's Frade project off the coast of that country. Also, the company's operations will be monitored for two years, Rio said, according to the report.

Darden Restaurants ( DRI ) shares are slumping after the company warned on its upcoming quarter. Darden Restaurants said it expects to report fiscal Q2 EPS of $0.41. The Thomson Reuters mean analyst estimate is for $0.54, if comparable. Q2 same-store sales growth is expected at 1.8%.

Apple ( AAPL ) shares are down, but above day lows after Bloomberg reported that AAPL, along with five e-book publishers, are being investigated by European Union antitrust regulators over deals that may restrict sales across the region.

Merck & Co. ( MRK ) shares are higher as the company will establish a new Asian research and development headquarters in Beijing. The company will also commit $1.5 billion to conduct R&D in China over the next five years, according to a Reuters report on the matter. MRK shares are up 0.3% to $35.36.

ADRs of U.K. supermarket group Tesco PLC (TSCDY) are down while Reuters reports that the company has lost market share to rivals after launching a price-cutting campaign in October, according to data from researcher Kantar Worldpanel. The researcher said Tesco was the only supermarket chain to see share decline. Testco shares fell from 30.7% last year to 30.5% this year, the data said.

Peregrine Pharmaceuticals (PPHM) is sharply higher after reporting preliminary results from a randomized Phase II trial showing a 50% improvement in overall tumor response rates in non-small cell lung cancer patients.

Shares of Bank of America (BAC) are higher while The Wall Street Journal reports BAC's Merrill Lynch unit has agreed to pay $315 million to settle a lawsuit over alleged misrepresentations in how it marketed mortgage loan-backed securities.

Commodities are higher as February gold contracts are down 1.11% to $1,715 an ounce while January crude oil contacts are down 0.23% to $100.76 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is down 0.36% to $38.87 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is up 0.52%, to $7.67.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is down 0.59% to $166.34. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is down 0.17% to $57.76. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is down 0.26% to $30.97.

Here's where markets stand at mid-day:

-NYSE down 25.82 (-0.34%) to 7,505.19

-DJIA up 36.02 (+0.3%) to 12,133.93

-S&P 500 down 0.93 (-0.09%) to 1,255.92

-Nasdaq down 13.15 (-0.5%) to 2,642.60


Nikkei down 1.39%

Hang Seng down 1.24%

Shanghai Composite down 0.32%

FTSE-100 down 0.2%

DAX-30 down 1.2%


NYSE Energy down 0.44% at 12,547.46

NYSE Financial down 0.55% at 4,100.39

NYSE Health Care up 0.56% at 6,809.43

NYSE Arca Tech 100 down 0.39% at 1,106.88


(+) GE, (+2.2%) Upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Bernstein

(+) FRO, (+24.0%) Plans to split company

(+) LNKD,(+4.1%) Upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at JP Morgan

(+) CLWR, (+0.2%) To offer $300.0 million of its Class A Common Stock


(-) VE, (-4.6%) To sell $6.7 billion assets to reduce debt

(-) NS, (-3.8%) Selling 5.25 Mln units in offering

(-) DRI, (-10.9%) Issues preliminary Q2 EPS below street view

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Copyright (C) 2016 All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited.

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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