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Midday Update: Stocks Pare Initial Losses That Followed Belgium Terror Attacks, Nasdaq Composite Turns Positive in Afternoon Trade

U.S. stocks have trimmed much of their earlier losses, with gains among health care and technology stocks lifting the Nasdaq Composite index to a small advance and working to offset early pressure elsewhere on Wall Street that followed a terrorist attack today in Belgium.

Investors initially were swapping riskier assets for the safe-havens of gold and government bonds in the wake of the coordinated bombings throughout Brussels earlier today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened almost 100 points lower before regaining traction with gains for component companies Apple ( AAPL ) and Pfizer ( PFE ).

Crude oil also stabilized, providing equities with additional traction and the major market indices reversed earlier losses to put the Nasdaq in the green and the Dow and S&P 500 only marginally lower.

Events in Europe overshadowed economic data this morning, including a significant beat for the Richmond Fed manufacturing index in March to positive 22.0 reading from a negative 4.0 in February.

Also, the flash reading for the March purchasing manager's manufacturing index improved slightly to 51.4 from February's final 51.3 reading, but came up shy of estimates looking for a gain to a 52.4 reading. The Federal Housing Finance Agency home price index for January also edged a slightly less-than-expected 0.5% to 230.7 from an upwardly revised 229.5 in December.

European equities remained under pressure from the attacks in Belgium, with the UK's FTSE insulated from the worst of the sell-off. Travel-related stocks were hardest hit with European airliners declining as much as 5%.

Crude oil was up 47 cents to $39.91 per barrel. Natural gas was unchanged at $1.90 per 1 million BTU. Gold was up $8.50 to $1,252.80 per ounce, while silver was up 2 cents to $15.87 per ounce. Copper was down a penny to $2.28 per pound.

Among energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund was down 0.85% to $10.50 with the United States Natural Gas Fund was up 0.62% to $6.46. Among precious-metal funds, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF was up 0.24% to 20.60 while SPDR Gold Shares were up 0.65% to $119.74. The iShares Silver Trust was up 0.20% to $15.09.

Here's where the U.S. markets stood at mid-day:

NYSE Composite Index down 36.09 (-0.35%) to 10,183.60

Dow Jones Industrial Average down 27.36 (-0.16%) to 17,596.51

S&P 500 down 2.60 (-0.13%) to 2,049.00

Nasdaq Composite Index up 3.45 (+0.07%) to 4,812.32

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

Nikkei 225 Index up 1.94%

Hang Seng Index down 0.08%

Shanghai China Composite Index -0.64%

FTSE 100 Index down 0.12%

CAC 40 down 1.25%

DAX down 0.20%

NYSE SECTOR INDICES

NYSE Energy Sector Index down 0.36%

NYSE Financial Sector Index down 0.62%

NYSE Healthcare Sector Index up 0.31%

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+) AKRX (+37.45%) Reports below-consensus earnings on strong revenue

(+) LEU (+35.86%) Reported 28% gain in Q4 sales and upbeat 2016 outlook

(+) NQ (+16.49%) Q4 earnings and revenue jumps from year ago

(+) VSLR (+3.57%) Gets $200 million in funding for residential solar projects

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

(-) GIII (-18.18%) Reported weaker-than-expected Q4 results and issued disappointing guidance for Q1 and FY16

(-) AGRO (-7.56%) Shareholders sell 12 million shares in public offering

(-) RIG (-5.03%) CEO expects offshore oil rig prices to remain unchanged for three years

(-) EPE (-2.76%) Sells assets in Haynesville and Bossier shales to Covey Park for $420 million

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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