Stocks are making a solid move higher at mid-day as investors focus on upbeat earnings and sales ahead of the holiday weekend while keeping a wary eye on unrest in the Middle East, a meeting of the Group of 20 in Paris and another monetary policy move by China in an effort to reduce excess liquidity there.
China's central bank boosted its bank reserve-requirement ratio by half a percentage point. The action marks the second time this year China has sought to curb inflation in that country by removing liquidity in the market.
Corporate earnings after the market closed yesterday and before the bell this morning are providing some lift. Both SunPower ( SPWRA ) and Brocade Communications ( BRCD ) earnings drove shares in those companies higher. Meanwhile, Campbell Soup ( CPB ) results tugged that company's shares lower.
U.S. markets and the government will be closed Monday for the President's Day holiday.
In company news:
Shares of Novartis AG ( NVS ) are down after the drug maker said today that Rasilamlo, its drug for high blood pressure, gained a positive opinion from the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use ( CHMP ), part of the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The drug, which is marketed in the U.S. as Tekamlo, is a combination pill for hypertension intended for patients whose blood pressure cannot be controlled by the single drugs alone, Reuters reported.
Shares of Apple (AAPL) are down after Bloomberg reported that the US Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are looking into whether the media subscription service started by the company violates antitrust laws. Citing two people familiar with the matter, the reports says the agencies have yet to decide whether to go forward with a formal investigation.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) has granted Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon stock and options worth $17 million, according to news outlets, citing a late-Thursday SEC filing. The filing said JPM granted Dimon 251,415 restricted stock units; half vest in January 2013 and the rest the following year. Based on the stock's closing price Wednesday, the day the units were granted, the award is worth $12.1 million.
Novavax (NVAX) posted the final safety and immunogenicity results from its 2009 H1N1 virus-like particle (VLP) pandemic influenza vaccine clinical trial in Mexico. According to the company, the trial had indicated that NVAX's H1N1 VLP vaccine was well-tolerated and generated strong immunogenicity at all dose levels. 85% of patients with no pre-existing immunology had shown protective titers, which indicates that the VLP vaccine will be important in addressing future influenza pandemics.
IBM is selling its 4.3% stake in Lenovo Group, according to a term sheet reported by Dow Jones Newswires and other outlets. With the sale, IBM is exiting its investment in China's biggest personal computer maker.
Ford Motor Co. (F) announced today that it will form a joint-venture with Russian auto maker Sollers to distribute cars in Russia. Both companies disclosed a memorandum of understanding to create a Russian joint-venture called Ford Sollers. Each will have equal stakes. It is expected to start operations by the end of 2011. The announcement followed an earlier joint news release from Sollers and Fiat announcing the cancellation of their potential partnership. Sollers and Fiat had signed a memorandum of understanding to produce 5000,000 vehicles in Russia.
Intel (INTC) CEO Paul Otellini will be named to an expert panel advising President Barack Obama on jobs, Reuters reported. The President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness already includes General Electric's (GE) Jeffrey Immelt, who will lead the board. Other members will be named in the coming weeks.
Shares of ConocoPhillips (COP) are higher as the company begins work on some of its facilities. The oil major reportedly confirmed that work has started at the Ponca City refinery in Oklahoma, Bloomberg reported. Also, the refiner has started to shut a fluid catalytic cracker for maintenance at its Sweeny refinery in Texas yesterday afternoon. That work is expected to last until March 3. ConocoPhillips shares are also benefitting from higher crude prices as unrest in the Middle East continues.
Micron (MU) is down despite theStreet.com's Jim Cramer saying late Thursday he is choosing MU as his speculative stock of the year. He notes the company is deeply levered to Apple because of its flash business and also has a bottom in its DRAM business, according to SeekingAlpha.
Cumulus Media (CMLS) confirmed it has entered into an exclusivity agreement to negotiate a merger agreement with Citadel Broadcasting, operator of the Citadel Media business, under which CMLS would acquire all of the outstanding common stock and warrants of Citadel at a price of $37.00 per share.
In earnings news:
--Yingli Green Energy Hold. Co. Ltd. (YGE) is up nearly 3% at mid-day. The company posted 2010 Q4 earnings of $0.57, ahead of Street estimates. Revenue was $616.1 million, well ahead of the Thomson Reuters mean analyst estimate of $546 million.
--Campbell Soup Co. ( CPB ) reports Q2 EPS of $0.71 compared to $0.74 a year earlier, in line with the Thomson Reuters mean analyst estimate. Sales of $2.13 billion is down from $2.15 billion a year earlier. The Street was at $2.15 billion.
--Lincoln Electric (LECO) says Q4 sales were $564.3 million, above the Thomson Reuters mean for $516.35 million. Adjusted EPS were $0.90, a dime more than estimates.
--Amerigroup (AGP) says Q4 net income was $1.59 per share, above the Thomson Reuters mean for $1.12. Sales were $1.502235 billion, versus forecasts for $1.52 billion.
--Rosetta Stone (RST) says it expects Q4 sales of approximately $74.2 million and non-GAAP EPS of $0.27. The Thomson Reuters mean is for sales of $77.24 million and EPS of $0.31.
--SunPower is higher after it reported late Thursday Q4 non-GAAP EPS of $1.36 on revenue of $937.1 million. The Street view is $1.05 per share on revenue of $931.40 million. Separately, shares got upgraded this morning to Buy from Hold, with a $22 price target, at Jefferies.
--Brocade ( BRCD ) is higher after beating Q1 expectations late Thursday and receiving an analyst upgrade this morning. It reported Q1 non-GAAP EPS of $0.12 compared to $0.10 a year earlier and better than the Thomson Reuters mean analyst estimate for $0.10. Revenue of $546 million is up from $539 million a year earlier. The Street looked for $543 million. Wunderlich reportedly boosted its rating on the issue to Buy from Hold and hiked its price target to $8 from $6 per share.
Commodities are higher. April gold contracts are up $5, or 0.33%, to $1,389 an ounce while March crude oil contacts are up 1.3%, or $1.12, at $87.42 a barrel.
In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 1.41% to $36.57 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is flat at $5.21.
In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 0.29% to $135.43. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 1.56% to $59.36. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 2.9% to $31.93.
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