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Stocks Slip into the Red as ECB Action Weighs

Stocks are trading lower at mid-day, paring back gains from a positive start in thin trading between the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

Investors were heartened this morning as an improved auction of Italian debt eased the immediate concerns over borrowing costs in Europe. The Italian Treasury on Wednesday sold 9 billion euros ($11.8 billion) of six-month bills, with yields dropping sharply from levels seen at a November auction, news reports said. The sale produced an average yield of 3.25%, reports said, down from 6.50% in a November auction. Bids exceeded supply 1.7 times, up from 1.5 times in November.

However, these gains were soon erased as investors seemed to shift focus to what many expect will be a difficult start to 2012.

Also weighing on sentiment was a European Central Bank (ECB) press release out today showing it increased its footings to 2.73 trillion euros ($3.57 trillion) as of 23rd December - a more than 10% bump in assets in a week. This comes on top of an 87% annualized expansion over the past 3 months. The European single currency fell below the $1.30 threshold on the news, and is yet to make a comeback.

In company news:

BOS Better OnLine Solutions ( BOSC ) is up 23% after the company announced that its Supply Chain division has been selected to provide components to a manufacturer of customized LCD displays for the automotive industry. The contract, valued at $2.5 million, will have supply and revenues that will be spread over the 3-year period of 2013-2014.

Molycorp ( MCP ) is down 12% and has hit a new year low a day after reports circulated that China's Ministry of Commerce will not change its rare earth export quotas for 2012. The 2012 export quota will be 10,546 tons.

Commodities are lower. February gold contracts are down $28.80 to $1,566.70 an ounce, while February crude oil contracts are down $1.78 to $99.56 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund ( USO ) is down 1.64% to $38.42 and the United States Natural Gas fund ( UNG ) is up 0.15%, to $6.84.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust ( GLD ) is down 1.67% to $152.32. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is down 3.01% to $50.34, touching year lows of $50.07. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is down 4.70% to $26.57.

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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