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Mid-Day Update: Stocks Lower as Middle East Concerns Weigh; Oil Nears $100 Bbl

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Here's where markets stand at mid-day:

-NYSE down 0.40 (-0.4%) to 8,292.80

-DJIA down 10.04 (-0.63%) to 12,135.97

-S&P 500 down 10.21 (-0.78%) to 1,305.59

-Nasdaq down 38.55 (-1.40%) to 2,717.96

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

Hang Seng down 0.36%

Nikkei down 0.8%

FTSE down 1.22%

MID-DAY NYSE INDEX WATCH

NYSE Energy up 2.02% at 14,050.20

NYSE Financial down 0.65% at 5,215.04

NYSE Health Care down 0.21% at 6,652.36

NYSE Arca Tech 100 down 1.89% at 1,122.72

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+) VRTX (+14.3%) announced positive results from the Phase 3 STRIVE study of VX-770, an oral medicine in development that targets the defective protein that causes cystic fibrosis.

(+) SNSSD (+6.5%) gets FDA fast-track status for Vosaroxin in AML.

(+) YOKU (+2.7%) upgraded.

(+) CHS (+5.3%) sales beat as EPS just misses; hikes dividend.

(+) ZLC (+8.2%) beats with revenue.

(+) GRMN (+1.9%) misses with earnings, guidance.

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

(-) AMAT (-0.1%) upgraded.

(-) TOL (-1.0%) swings to Q1 profit.

(-) HPQ (-10.2%) disappoints with guidance.

(-) APCVZ (-72.2%) says CVRs linked to APP stockholders to expire worthless.

(-) CNXT (-7.1%) down as SMSC will not raise offer.

(-) TJX (-2.9%) down after mixed earnings, guidance.

(-) SATC (-22.5%) missed with Q4 results issued in Tuesday after-hours; downgraded this morning.

(-) LOW (-2.5%) beats with EPS, meets with sales, sets EPS guidance in line.

(-) NFLX (-6.9%) downgraded.

MARKET DIRECTION

Stocks are down for a second day on continued political unrest in Libya. The turmoil in that oil-rich nation also provided a boost for crude oil prices, which is building on yesterday's surge. Meanwhile, new data showed used home sales rose last month, largely on all-cash deals by vulture investors.

In the latest housing data, sales of previously occupied homes rose in January as foreclosures and all-cash deals elbowed first-time home-buyers aside, suggesting vulture investors are snapping up distressed properties, driving prices to a nine-year low.

Previously occupied home sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.36 million units, up 2.7% from 5.22 million sales in December, according to the National Association of Realtors. Economists say the market must hit 6 million in annual sales before it can be considered healthy.

First-time home-buyers shrunk to 29% of all purchasers, a two-year low. Foreclosures amounted to 37% of sales in January. All-cash transactions accounted for 32% of sales, the group said.

In company news:

Shares of Forest Laboratories ( FRX ) are down after Bloomberg reported on investors' concerns that the company's $1.2 billion buy of Clinical Data will not add earnings in time to offset losses from expiration of patents on Forest's biggest drug. Forest has bee seeking to license new medications to take the place of Lexapro, which is an antidepressant that comprises 56 percent of the company's sales.

Citigroup's ( C ) compensation plan is getting panned from CLSA analyst Mike Mayo, reports The Wall Street Journal. Mayo, who the Journal says has been a sharp critic of the bailed-out bank, scored the compensation plan tying executive bonuses to a target for cumulative pre-tax income this year and in 2012 of $12 billion, calling the target a "very low hurdle."

Sunesis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ( SNSSD ) is up following the company's announcement that vosaroxin, its lead drug candidate, has been granted Fast Track designation by the federal regulators for the potential treatment of relapsed or refractory acute myeloid leukemia in combination with cytarabine. Vosaroxin was granted orphan drug designation by the FDA for the treatment of AML in 2009.

Apple ( AAPL ) shares are higher after Bloomberg reported that the computer maker is confronting a challenge over its succession plan for Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs, who has taken medical leave for the third time in seven years. A resolution set for a vote at Apply's shareholder meeting asks the board to provide plans for replacing Jobs.

Shares of private equity firm KKR & Co. ( KKR ) were higher after announcing that its 2010 Q4 economic net income rose nearly 39% amid stronger investment returns and capital raising. Economic net income was $714.6 million in Q4, vs. $515.3 million seen a year earlier. KKR, one of the world's biggest private equity firms, has investments in retailer Dollar General Corp (DG) and privately held hospital operator HCA Holdings Inc.

Duncan Energy Partners (DEP) soared after receiving a proposal from Enterprise Products Partners L.P.(EPD) and certain affiliates to acquire all of the outstanding publicly-held common units of Duncan Energy Partners through a unit-for-unit exchange. Enterprise is proposing consideration of 0.9545 Enterprise common units for each issued and outstanding publicly-held Duncan Energy Partners common unit.

In earnings news:

--Shares of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) are sharply lower following the company's disappointing guidance issued during the computer maker's quarterly earnings release yesterday. The company reported Q1 EPS of $1.36, vs. the analyst consensus of $1.29 per share on Thomson Reuters. Revenue was $32.3 billion, vs. expectations of $32.9 billion.

--Shares of The Washington Post (WPO) are down after the newspaper publisher reported fourth quarter net income of $79 million, or $9.42 per share, off from $81.7 million, or $8.71 per share, in the same period a year earlier. The Thomson Reuters mean was for $8.72. The company had more earnings per share last year, which boosted the EPS number. Sales were $1.19 billion, more than estimates for $1.18954 billion.

--Saks (SKS) is firmer after it reported Q4 EPS Of $0.14, including a $0.01 per share item. The Street view was $0.08 per share. Sales were $866.3 mln, vs. expectations of $860 mln.

--Chico's FAS (CHS) firms after reporting Q4 EPS of $0.12 compared to $0.10 a year earlier and a penny shy of the Thomson Reuters mean analyst estimate for $0.13. Sales increased 9% to $475.0 million from $435.7 million in last year's fourth quarter. topping the Street view for $473.2 million.

--Zale Corp. (ZLC) reports Q2 revenue of $626 mln, better than the analyst consensus of $624 mln on Thomson Reuters and up 7.6% from year ago levels. EPS was $0.74, vs. $0.22 per share in the year ago quarter. The Street view was $1.27 per share.

Commodities are higher. April gold contracts are up $12, or 0.89%, to $1,414 an ounce while April crude oil contacts are up 3.08%, or $2.92, at $98.34 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 3.95% to $40.02 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is up $0.13, or 0.13%, to $5.20.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 1.17% to $137.88. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 2.19% to $59.71. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 1.89% to $32.87.

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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