Upbeat Economic Reports Lift Wall Street Above Weight of Bank Stock Results

Better-than-expected economic data has lifted positive sentiment for stocks into Thursday's afternoon session. The government reported a 5-year low for weekly jobless claims in the last week while The Census Bureau reported a 21.1% increase in home building vs. the previous month. But in corporate news, Bank of America ( BAC ) and Citigroup ( C ) are trading lower after reporting Q4 financial results this morning and Boeing ( BA ) continues to experience turbulence with its planes grounded.

According to the Labor Department, new applications for unemployment benefits fell to a seasonally adjusted 335,000 in the week ended January 12. Economists polled by MarketWatch forecast claims would drop to 368,000. The average of new claims over the past month fell by 6,750 to 359,250. Continuing claims increased by 87,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.21 million in the week ended January 5.

At the same time, the Commerce Department reported that December housing starts jumped 12.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 954,000, their highest level since June 2008. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected U.S. housing starts would increase to 883,000. December building permits, a sign of future demand, rose 0.3% to a rate of 903,000, their highest since July 2008.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's regional manufacturing gauge, which will be reported at 10 a.m. ET. Economists expect the January reading to be 5, from 8.1 in December.

In corporate news, Boeing shares are down - although well above day lows - after regulators in Europe, India and Japan backed the Federal Aviation Administration's decision to ground all Dreamliner planes on worries over onboard lithium-ion batteries that have twice caught fire recently.

Bank of America ( BAC ) reported that its Q4 earnings declined year-over-year, but they were above analyst estimates. Shares of BAC were down nearly 4% mid-day, pulling back from early gains.

Citigroup ( C ) reported Q4 results above year ago levels, but below analyst estimates. Shares were down nearly 3% mid-day.

U.S. sectors were higher mid-day, with cons. cyclical up 1%, trailed by conglomerates, capital goods, energy, healthcare and services, all up more than 0.50%.

Commodities were mostly higher at mid-day. Crude oil for February delivery was up $1.26 at $95.50 a barrel in electronic trading. February natural gas was down $0.003 at $3.43 per 1 million BTU.

In metals, February gold futures were up $4.80 to $1,688. March silver was up $0.103 at $31.64 per ounce in electronic trade. March copper was up $0.046 at $3.65 per pound.

Here's where the markets stood at mid-day:

Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) up 43.40 (+0.32%) 13,578.29

S&P 500 (^INX) up 7.03 (+0.48%) 1,479.37

Nasdaq Composite Index (^IXIC) up 22.02 (+0.71%) 3,132.80

NYSE Composite (^NYA) up 22.43 (+0.26%) 8,755.53


Nikkei 225 Index up 0.09%

Hang Seng Index down 0.07%

Shanghai China Composite Index down 1.06%

FTSE 100 Index up 0.41%

DAX up 0.50%


NYSE Financial Sector Index (^NYK) down 5.12 (-0.10%) at 5,332.65

NYSE Energy Sector Index (^NYE) up 63.15 (+0.48%) at 13,111.49

NYSE Healthcare Sector Index (^NYP) up 52.96 (+0.64%) at 8,283.81


(+) CLW (+6.3%, has hit new 52-week high) Commenced a proposed offering of $250 million aggregate principal amount of senior notes due 2023. The company will use $163.9 million of the net proceeds to redeem all of its outstanding 10.625% Senior Notes due 2016.

(+) EEI (+6%) Awarded approximately $39 million in contracts to consult on the development of eco-cities and a large health care complex for the China International Finance and Guarantee Group with the backing of the Chinese government.

(+) ASML (+8.3%, has hit new 52-week high) Reported Q4 EPS of EUR 0.65, ex one-time items, versus the Capital IQ consensus of EUR 0.43. Revenues were $1.023 billion, versus the analyst estimate of $1.016 billion. The company expects Q1 net sales of EUR 850 million, versus the analyst estimate of EUR 1.11 billion.

(+) NLS (+12.4%, earlier hit new 52-week high) Said late Wednesday that it expects to report net Q4 sales of approximately $65 million, an increase of 8.4% compared to Q4 2011. Fully diluted earnings per share from continuing operations are estimated to be in the range of $0.21 - $0.23 for the period, compared to $0.11 per share for the fourth quarter of 2011.

(+) JMBA (Now up 2.5%, as turned positive) Signed an exclusive franchise development agreement with investor group ShowMe Smoothie, LLC, to develop 15 Jamba Juice stores within Missouri and Kansas over the next nine years.


(-) PWER (-8%, nearer 52-week low) Announced that it expects to report fourth quarter 2012 revenue of $190 million to $195 million, which is below the previously estimated range of $210 million to $230 million. The company expects to report a net loss of $12 million to $15 million for the quarter due to lower than expected gross margins resulting from the revenue shortfall and new product ramp-up costs.

(-) FET (-7.5%) Lowered its full year 2012 earnings guidance. It now expects earnings per diluted share of $1.72 to $1.74, below its previous guidance range of $1.83 to $1.88.

(-) AVEO (-4.7%) Announced underwritten public offering of 6,667,000 shares of its common stock at a price of $7.50 per share to the public.

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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