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US Indexes Mixed as Consumer Spending Gains in March Oil, Gold Both Trading Higher

Stocks are mixed in mid-session trading with support from consumers who were more liberal in opening their wallets last month. That wasn't the same for companies, which seemed to pull back spending, according a report released after the market opened this morning.

March consumer spending data rose 0.6%, roughly in line with expectations on Wall Street. But consumer spending in January and February was revised higher. Spending in February rose a revised 0.9% compared with the prior estimate of a 0.7% gain. Consumer spending in January rose a revised 0.5%, compared with a 0.3% increase. Personal income rose 0.5% in March, above expectations of a 0.3% gain.

Also, the Chicago Purchasing Manger's Index fell to 67.6 in April from 70.6 in March. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a reading of 68.

In company news:

Kindred Healthcare ( KND ) is down after it commented on the proposed rule issued late yesterday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ( CMS ) regarding Medicare payment rates for skilled nursing facilities for fiscal year 2012. "The proposed rule offers two alternatives for a potential parity adjustment, one of which recognizes that three months' worth of data may be insufficient to arrive at an accurate calculation of rates. Kindred strongly agrees with this approach and urges CMS to ensure that adequate data exists before arriving at definitive conclusions," KND said in a statement.

Shares of McDonald's ( MCD ) are higher while Bloomberg reports that the company said it hired 24% more people than planned during an employment drive event this month. The restaurant chain hired 62,000 people in the U.S. after receiving more than one million applications, the report said.

Shares of Goldman Sachs ( GS ) and JPMorgan Chase ( JPM ) are higher as Bloomberg reports that the two are in a group with 14 other investment bank facing European Union anitrust probes into credit-default swaps for companies and sovereign debt. The investigation is looking into whether the banks colluded when they provided market information to Markit Group, a data provider.

In earnings news:

--Merck (MRK) reports Q1 non-GAAP EPS of $0.92 compared to $0.83 a year earlier and topping the Thomson Reuters mean analyst estimate for $0.84. Revenue rose to $11.6 billion from $11.4 billion. The Street looked for $11.4 billion. The company guides for 2011 adjusted profit of $3.66 and $3.76. The Street looks for $3.69.

--Research In Motion (RIMM) stumbled out of the gate and is down more than 13% after it said late Thursday it expects Q1 EPS between $1.30 to $1.37 per share, lower than its previous forecast of $1.47 to $1.55 per share and below the analyst consensus of $1.48 per share on Thomson Reuters.

--Microsoft (MSFT) is lower despite having reported Q3 revenue of $16.43 billion, 13% higher than the prior-year quarter. Its EPS of $0.61 were also higher by 36% versus the year-ago period, topping The Street view of $0.56 per share.

Commodities are higher. June gold contracts are up 0.90%, to $1,545 an ounce while June crude oil contacts are up 0.46% to $113.39 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 0.49% to $45.05 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is up 0.59%, to $11.86.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 0.55% at $150.64. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 0.65% to $61.68. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 0.34% to $47.42.

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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