US Indexes Mixed as Fed's Beige Book is In Focus; Bernanke Comments Weigh

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Stocks are mixed at the session's half as investors await the release of the Federal Reserve's so-called "beige book" of regional economic conditions at 2 p.m. EDT. Meanwhile, concerns linger through the morning about the strength of the US economic recovery.

Investors are reacting to Fed chief Ben Bernanke's late-Tuesday speech. Major averages reversed late in Tuesday's session, ending a touch lower and extending the latest slide to five sessions.

Bernanke believes the U.S. economy will pick up in the second half of the year. But he also admitted that the economic recovery was proving to be "uneven" and "frustratingly slow." Still, he gave no indication that another round of quantitative easing was coming.

In company news:

Shares of McDonald's (MCD) are higher in regular-session trading as the company said May global comparable sales rose 3.1%. U.S. comparable sales increased 2.4%, Europe up 2.3% and Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa up 4.3%. McDonald's saw brisk sales in seasonal products such as its coffee beverages and frozen strawberry lemonade, according to a Forbes report on the sales figures. Breakfast items such as fruit & maple oatmeal pushed sales as well.

Citigroup Inc. ( C ) slips after saying it has agreed to sell a $1.7 billion portfolio of private-equity assets to AXA Private Equity, part of AXA SA, according to the Wall Street Journal and later confirmed by AXA. The sale is part of Citigroup's strategy to clean up its books in the wake of the financial crisis, the Journal said.

Merck & Co. (MRK) shares are near the flatline in regular-session trading while Reuters reports the drug maker discontinued a trial of a a vaccine against hospital infections known as methicillin-resistant S. aureus, or MRSA. The decision reportedly came after experts evaluated the vaccine benefits against its risks. The vaccine was developed by Intercell. The decision is the latest in a series of setbacks for the Austrian company.

Shares of Covidien ( COV ) are higher as Bloomberg reports the maker of surgical products and medications is looking to sell its pharmaceuticals business in a transaction that could bring in $3 billion to $4 billion, citing people familiar with the deal. Covidien has been in discussions with another health-care firm looking to buy the unit, the report said.

Shares of Apple ( AAPL ) are higher as MarketWatch reports the company has become the largest buyer of chips among computer equipment makers in 2010 thanks to iPhone and iPad demand, citing data released by released by IHS iSuppli. The report notes that Apple purchased $17.5 billion in semiconductors in 2010. That was an increase of 79.6% from $9.7 billion in 2009.

Exxon Mobil (XOM) shares are higher after the company said this morning that it made three deepwater discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico. The discoveries have a combined estimated reserves of 700 million barrels of oil equivalent. "We estimate a recoverable resource of more than 700 million barrels of oil equivalent combined in our Keathley Canyon blocks," said Steve Greenlee, president of ExxonMobil Exploration, in a statement.

Commodities are mixed as August gold contracts are down 0.41%, to $1,538 an ounce while July crude oil contacts are up 1.87% to $100.94 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 2.54% to $40.04 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is down 0.41%, to $12.28.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust ( GLD ) is down 0.32% at $149.94. Market Vectors Gold Miners ( GDX ) is down 2.29% to $53.42. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is down 0.97% to $35.77.

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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