Stocks Hold Gains at Mid-Day; Consumer Confidence Plunge Offset by Retail, Business Spending Gains

Stocks are firm in mid-day trading, with the Dow topping 1%, despite a mid-morning swoon after consumer sentiment data came in unexpectedly low. Retail sales and business inventories rose, providing some support through the morning session.

Sales at U.S. retailers rose 0.5% in July, slightly shy of the 0.7% gain that Wall Street economists expected. Excluding the volatile auto segment, sales rose 0.5%, which was stronger than expected. Sales for June and May, meanwhile, were also revised higher. Over the past three months, retail sales have climbed 8.2% compared with the same period one year ago.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index hit 54.9, down from 63.7 in July. Analysts were looking for a reading of 61. The gauge of consumer sentiment looking ahead six months also fell to 45.7 in August from 56 in July, and the gauge of current economic conditions fell to 69.3 from 75.8.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department reported that business inventories rose 0.3% in June, the smallest gain since May 2010. Total business sales rose 0.4% after a 0.1% drop in May, a positive sign for the economy.

In company news:

Shares of Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ ) are higher after Bloomberg reported the computer maker had cut prices for its TouchPad tablet computer as it moves to compete with Apple ( AAPL ). The TouchPad now costs $399.99 for a 16 GB model and $499.99 for a 32 GB model, the report said. HP had said in a Jun 9 statement that it would charge $499.99 for the 16 GB model and $599 for the 32 GB model.

Shares of Forest Laboratories ( FRX ) are higher, while Bloomberg reports that activist investor Carl Icahn, who is looking to be represented on the company's board of directors, wants to focus the drug maker on medications that primary care doctors prescribe.

Shares of Bank of New York Mellon ( BK ) are down after attorneys general in Virginia and Florida filed civil suits against the bank, accusing it of using a currency-trading method that ultimately cheated pension funds, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Shares of Nvidia ( NVDA ) are soaring 4.47% at $14.01, after it raises its Q3 revenue guidance. The company said it now sees Q3 revenue in the range of $1.05 billion to $1.07 billion. The Street looked for $1.05 billion. Nvidia also said its Q2 EPS and revenue were $0.25 and $1.01 billion, both in-line with estimates.

Shares of Pfizer (PFE) are higher, while The Wall Street Journal reported that the drug maker has provided U.S. authorities with information about "potentially improper payments" it made outside the United States.

Commodities are mixed. December gold contracts are down 0.77% to $1,738 an ounce while September crude oil contacts are up 1.12% to $86.68 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 1.11% to $33.67 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is down 0.53%, to $10.35.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is down 1.15% to $168.71. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is down 1.49% to $58.96. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 0.26% to $37.90.

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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