Stocks Mixed as Sovereign Debt Concerns Dominate Trade; Crude Futures Higher

Stocks are mixed in mid-day trading as investors - in what has become a common refrain over the last month - focused on the debt-related uncertainty across the Atlantic. Also, new data release this morning showed continued declines in optimism among small business owners.

In the latest economic data, the National Federation of Independent Business small business optimism index fell 1.8 points last month to 88.1. That marks the sixth drop in a row, MarketWatch reported. Also, the Labor Department reported the cost of imports into the U.S. declined 0.4% in August.

A Financial Times report said China could buy Italian bonds and invest in some companies there. According to news reports, strategists at MF Global added: "We would not be surprised to see China come in with a much bigger check-book, perhaps rivaling the size of the stabilization fund itself, in an attempt to shore up the European debt market and preserve an important export hub for themselves."

A senior banking official in China reportedly told Market News International that the government may not agree to a proposal to buy Italian debt owing to the instability of European bond markets.

In company news:

Shares of Internet giant Google ( GOOG ) are down, paring a modest pre-market gain, as Bloomberg reports the Internet giant is allowing users to opt out of its location-based services. The move will take effect later this year following requests by European authorities.

Best Buy ( BBY ) shares have pared pre-market gains and are now trading lower. The electronics retailer said Q2 sales were $11.347 billion, just below the Thomson Reuters mean for $11.47301 billion. Diluted EPS were $0.47, below estimates for $0.53. FY12 sales are seen between $51.0 billion to $52.5 billion, compared with estimates for $52.06612 billion. EPS are seen between $3.35 to $3.65, including the estimated impact from fiscal 2012 share repurchases (expected to benefit annual EPS by $0.20 to $0.25). Estimates, usually less items, are seen at $3.46. Shares are up 0.2%.

Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ ) has climbed out of the red after it said it had extended its deadline to buy British software company Autonomy for $11.2 billion. The new deadline is Oct. 3 and the company said 41.6 percent of shares outstanding had been tendered as part of the offer. The company must snare 33.4 percent support from Autonomy investors to delist it from the London Stock Exchange.

Shares of Pfizer ( PFE ) are near flat as the company extended its tender offer for all the outstanding shares of Icagen ( ICGN ). The offer, for $6 a share, will expire at 6 pm Monday and will not be extended again. Pfizer already owns 67% of Icagen's common stock.

Shares of JPMorgan Chase (JPM) are higher after the bank was reportedly upgraded to Buy from Hold at Stifel Nicolaus. The firm has a price target of $40 on JPM shares. In his note, Stifel analyst Christopher Mustascio noted JPM's 25% decline since the end of May and that, given the subdued environment, it is time to start accumulating the stock, as reported by Barron's.

Commodities are higher as December gold contracts are up 0.62% to $1,825 an ounce while October crude oil contacts are up 1.1% to $89.12 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 0.35% to $34.54 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is up 2.13%, to $10.05.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 0.38% to $177.35. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is down 0.38% to $63.66. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 1.38% to $39.68.

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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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