Stocks Shed Early Upside at Mid-Day; Investors Eye Bernanke Testimony, Oil Price Spike

Stocks are continuing to slide at mid-day with the Nasdaq down more than 1%, as crude oil notched higher on renewed unrest in Iran, while Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told the Senate Banking Committee that inflation risk remains low but acknowledged the potential for headline risk due to rising commodity prices.

In the latest economic data, the Institute for Supply Management reported its manufacturing gauge increased to 61.4 in February from 60.8 in January. Readings over 50 indicate that more manufacturers are expanding instead of shrinking.

In company news:

Shares of Goldman Sachs ( GS ) are down after the bank said it estimated its "reasonable possible" losses from legal cases over sour investments could be as much as $3.4 billion, Bloomberg reports. The estimate was disclosed in the firm's annual 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Separately, the SEC said that it charged former Goldman director Rajat Gupta for allegedly sending inside information to hedge fund tycoon Raj Rajaratnam, MarketWatch reported.

Google ( GOOG ) shares are down after Bloomberg reported that the Internet search giant is opening new offices in Latin America and raising staffing by half to capitalize on the growth in the region. Revenue from the region rose 80% last year, the report said, citing company Vice President Dennis Woodside.

Novavax, Inc. ( NVAX ) announced an agreement to license its proprietary, recombinant virus-like-particle (VLP) vaccine technology to LG Life Sciences, Ltd. (LGLS). Under the agreement, LGLS receives an exclusive license to manufacture, develop and commercialize influenza vaccines using Novavax's recombinant VLP technology in South Korea. LGLS also receives a non-exclusive license to manufacture, develop and commercialize influenza VLP vaccines in certain emerging market countries.

JPMorgan Chase ( JPM ) shares are down as Bloomberg reports that the investment bank has invested in a fund that has purchased about $400 million in Twitter. The investment suggests Twitter is valued at as much as $34.5 billion, the report said, citing three people with knowledge of the matter.

Geron ( GERN ) reported that its preclinical study data showed positive effects of GRNCM1, GERN's cardiomyocyte product derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), in a small animal model of acute heart damage. The results suggest that GRNCM1 positively affects cardiac function through several mechanisms, thus increasing cardiac output and decreasing arrhythmias in the acute infarct setting.

DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. (DWA) and IMAX Corporation (IMAX) announced today that the studio's two upcoming releases, "Kung Fu Panda 2" and "Puss in Boots," will open in digital IMAX theatres in IMAX 3D.

CVS Caremark (CVS) announced today that Larry J. Merlo has assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer. Merlo, now President and Chief Executive Officer of CVS Caremark, succeeds Thomas M. Ryan who will remain Non-Executive Chairman until his retirement at the company's Annual Meeting of Shareholders in May of 2011. Merlo, a pharmacist by training with over 30 years in pharmacy health, joined CVS/pharmacy in 1990 through the company's acquisition of Peoples Drug.

Noble Energy, Inc. (NBL) has received an approved permit to resume drilling at the Santiago prospect in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. Well operations were suspended in June 2010 as a result of the deepwater Gulf of Mexico drilling moratorium. Santiago is a middle Miocene amplitude prospect on Mississippi Canyon Block 519. Noble Energy is the operator with a 23.25% working interest.

Mad Catz Interactive, Inc. (MCZ) is up on the back of its agreement with Electronic Arts, Inc. (ERTS) to produce branded PC and console videogame accessories based on "The Sims" franchise. The agreement grants Mad Catz non-exclusive rights to produce and market a wide range of videogame accessories for PC, Microsoft Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system, Sony PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system, Wii, Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS systems.

In earnings news:

--ReneSola (SOL) reports Q4 revenue of $386.4 million, better than the analyst consensus of $366 million on Thomson Reuters. Earnings per ADS were $0.70, vs. expectations of $0.69.

--AutoZone (AZO) reports Q2 EPS of $3.34, better than the Street view of $3.06 per share on Thomson Reuters. Sales were $1.7 billion, ahead of the analyst consensus of $1.63 billion.

--Tech Data (TECD) says Q4 sales were $7.1172 billion, better than the Thomson Reuters mean for $6.87 billion. It earned $1.63 per share, above forecasts for $1.43. Its Board approved a share repurchase program for up to $100 million.

Commodities are higher. April gold contracts are up $18, or 1.27%, to $1,428 an ounce while April crude oil contacts are up 1.7%, or $1.65, at $98.62 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 2.02% to $39.99 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is down $0.18, or 3.34%, to $5.21.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 1.16% to $139.27. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 1.40% to $60.67. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 1.84% to $33.72.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Copyright (C) 2016 All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited.

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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