U.S. stocks woke up on the wrong side of the bed Thursday as ongoing uncertainty over the Cyprus bailout situation had market participants hitting the sell button out of the gate. As morning trading has progressed, however, mixed readings on jobs, home sales and the Flash PMI have been enough to stimulate some moderate buying interest, with the big three U.S. equity averages paring their morning losses.
U.S. jobless claims were released at 8:30 a.m. ET, but provided little influence on downward market momentum. Jobless claims for the week ended March 16th rose by 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 336,000, a slightly better reading than the 340,000 claims economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast. Meanwhile the average number of new claims over the past month declined by 7,500 to 339,750.
After the opening bell, February existing home sales came in at 4.98 million, the highest number since 2009, vs. the consensus expectation of 5.01 million, while the January FHFA Price Index rose 0.6%, vs. an estimated 0.7%. Neither number had much of an impact on the market following their release, nor did the February leading indicator figure of 94.8, up 0.5% vs. the forecast of 0.4%.
Equally benign was the March Philly Fed business outlook figure which weighed in at up 2.0, better than an expected decline of 2.0, and well above last month's -12.5 reading. The U.S. March Flash PMI manufacturing figure was virtually in-line at 54.9, compared to the 55 consensus.
Overseas, Cyprus remained cause for concern. Earlier, The European Central Bank said it would suspend aid for the country's banks if it does not come up with a bailout deal by next week. As a result, European bourses were trading lower across the board. Asian markets, however, were holding up well, trading mixed to higher.
In individual stock news of notes, shares of Oracle ( ORCL ) were under pressure, down 8.8% at $32.60, following the company's Wednesday after-hours earnings release. Oracle reported Q3 earnings of $0.65 per share, below the Capital IQ consensus of $0.66. Revenues were $9 bln, also missing the analyst estimate of $9.37 bln.
Overall, commodity prices were mixed, with oil down $0.71, at $92.79 a barrel. Natural gas continued its assault on the $4 mark, up $0.016 to $3.976 per million BTUs.
Gold futures were up to $6.70 $1614.20 per ounce, while silver was up $0.388, to $29.205 per ounce. Copper was down $0.008 to $3.4385.
Here's where the markets stood at mid-day:
NYSE Composite down 22.44 (-0.25%) to 9,058.65
Dow Jones Industrial Average down 35.43 (-0.24%) to 14,476.30
S&P 500 down 4.71 (-0.30%) to 1,554
Nasdaq Composite Index down 19.86 (-0.61%) to 3,234.33
Nikkei 225 Index up 1.35%
Hang Seng Index down 0.14%
Shanghai China Composite Index up 0.29%
FTSE 100 Index down 0.80%
DAX down 1.02%
CAC 40 down 1.66%
NYSE SECTOR INDICES
NYSE Energy Sector Index (^NYE) down 2.35 (-0.02%) at 13,176.72
NYSE Financial Sector Index (^NYK) down 14.64 (-0.27%) to 5,500.15
NYSE Healthcare Sector Index (^NYP) down 17.90 (-0.20%) to 8,707.84
(+) ACAD (+29%) Shares hit new year highs after the biopharmaceutical company presented results from its pivotal Phase III -020 Study with pimavanserin in patients with Parkinson's disease psychosis at the Emerging Science session of the 65th American Academy of Neurology ( AAN ) Annual Meeting.
(+) MLHR (+8.4%) Shares rise to new 52-week highs after the interior furnishings company reported late Wednesday Q3 sales of $423.5 mln, vs. the analyst consensus of $437.6 mln on Capital IQ. Adjusted EPS was $0.32, vs. estimates of $0.28 per share.
(+) GEVO (+8.5%) Stock jumps after the company confirmed yesterday's chatter that the U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Delaware ruled that the company did not infringe on a Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC patent for a method to commercially produce isobutanol.
(-) SCHL (-14.5%) Shares slide after the company reported a Q3 loss of $0.63 per share, which includes one time items and may not be comparable to the Capital IQ consensus of $0.39 loss per share. Revenues were $380.5 mln, versus the analyst estimate of $384.20 mln.
(-) CIMT (-13.7%) Shares are under pressure after the company was informed, last week, of a case of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy in a 75 year old male patient from the UK with myelofibrosis treated with the company's ruxolitinib.
(-) JBL (-5%) Selling takes hold after company reported late Wednesday that Q2 core EPS was $0.53, vs. the analyst consensus of $0.54 per share on Capital IQ. Revenue was $4.4 bln, vs. expectations of $4.38 bln.
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