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Stocks Lower as Employment Data Weighs; Deal News Provides Some Support

Stocks are lower at mid-day, weighed by new payroll data showing the economy added the fewest number of jobs since last November, missing economists' estimates. Deal news was moderately supportive, but investors are turning their attention to non-farm payroll data due Friday from the government.

The U.S. private sector added 179,000 jobs in April, the lowest increase since November, according to payroll data compiled by Automatic Data Processing Inc. The figures can offer a preview of the more closely watched non-farm payrolls report that's on the slate for Friday. Analysts are expecting the unemployment rate to stay flat at 8.8%, MarketWatch reports.

In deal news, Applied Materials will buy chip-equipment maker Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates Inc. ( VSEA ) for $63 a share in cash, or around $4.9 billion in total. The price represents a 55% premium to Varian's closing price on Tuesday and a 38% premium to the stock's 30-day average closing price. AMAT says the deal is expected to boost its adjusted earnings in the first year.

In company news:

AT&T ( T ) launched the new HP Veer 4G, which is the smallest full-featured smartphone to date and is also the first unit to run the latest webOS version offering thousands of available apps through the webOS App Catalog. With dimensions equal in size to a credit card and no thicker than a deck of cards, the HP Veer G will be available starting May 15, 2011 at a retail price of $99.99 (with a two-year contract) at AT&T stores or purchased online

Walgreen ( WAG ) today reported that April comparable store sales rose 3.4%, led by a 6.5% increase in front-end sales, benefiting from this year's later Easter, which fell on April 24 compared with April 4 last year.

Goldman Sachs ( GS ) shares were seeing some support after the bank was reportedly initiated with a Buy at UBS. UBS has a price target is $200.

Shares of Chevron ( CVX ) are down after the Associated Press reported that the oil major said it will buy 228,000 acres in the Marcellus Shale from Chief Oil & Gas LLC and Tug Hill, Inc. The purchase gives Chevron an additional 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves in the Marcellus leasehold.

Bayer (BAYRY) ADRs are lower as Bloomberg reports that Chief Executive Officer Marijn Dekkers said he would be open to a "merger of equals" that would boost its health-care unit. Dekkers reportedly said that three or four companies may be considered Bayerâ€â"¢s equals in a merger of drug units.

In earnings news:

--MGM (MGM) starts higher after it says Q1 sales were $1.5 billion, meeting expectations. Net loss was $0.18 per share, a penny better than estimates.

--Allergan (AGN), a multi-specialty health care company, today announced a Q1 non-GAAP earnings increase to $239.9 million, or 77 cents per share, compared with the prior-year quarter's $199.8 million, or 65 cents per share. This is above the Thomson Reuters analysts' mean for $0.74, which typically excludes special items.

--Time Warner (TWX) says Q1 sales were $6.7 billion, above the Thomson Reuters mean for $6.44178 billion. Adjusted EPS were $0.58, two cents above forecasts.

--AOL Inc. (AOL) reports Q1 profit of $0.04 compared to $0.39 in the year-ago period. Revenue fell 17% to $551.4 million. Analyst estimates were not available.

--Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, which trades in the U.S. under ticker BUD, on Wednesday posted sharply higher net profit for Q1, but the results were skewed by high costs last year, while sales remained flat, the AP says.

--Kellogg (K) says Q1 sales were $3.5 billion, above the Thomson Reuters mean for $3.40289 billion. Reported EPS were $1, versus forecasts for $1.04.

Commodities are down as June gold contracts are down 1.39%, to $1,523 an ounce while June crude oil contacts are down 1.41% to $109.45 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is down 1.45% to $43.44 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is down 0.83%, to $11.95.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is down 1.23% at $148.03. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is down 1.29% to $57.47. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is down 4.71% to $38.63.

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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