|4:30 pm : The major equity averages booked a mixed finish as participants opted to rest on the heady gains scored in the prior session.|
Stocks bounded in the prior session to set new multi-year highs. That drove buying abroad, but the positive tone was unable to extend into trade today. Instead, the broad market generally remained mired near the neutral line.
Economic data failed to act as a catalyst for trade. It featured a 0.4% increase in overall import prices. Excluding oil, import prices eased down by 0.1%. Prior month import prices featured increases of 0.3% and 0.1%, respectively. Export prices increased by 0.4%, or 0.5% when excluding agricultural items. The prior month saw export prices increase by 0.2% and 0.5%, respectively.
The fourth quarter current account deficit reportedly totaled $124.1 billion. A deficit of $113.8 billion had been expected, on average, among economists polled by Briefing.com.
Given the near 4% surge achieved by Financials in the prior session, the sector didn't have much of a reaction to news that only four of 19 banks came short of targets established in the latest round of stress tests. That said, many bank stocks were able to extend their gains, driving the KBW Bank Index to a 1.3% gain and its best level since last summer.
Tech stocks, which collectively carry the greatest market weight of any sector, traded with strength for most of the session. Gains were checked in mid-afternoon trade, but it was able to bounce off of the neutral line to score a 0.6% gain. Apple (AAPL 589.58, +21.48) shares continue to climb, resulting in new record highs and a market cap of nearly $550 billion. The stock's latest leg of gains came in combination of strong momentum and positive analyst commentary.
Treasuries were trounced. The action took the yield on the benchmark 10-year Note to a new multi-month high above 2.25%.
Also a traditional safe haven, gold prices dropped precipitously -- more than $50 -- to almost $1640 per ounce. That stoked selling in the SPDR Gold Trust ETF (GLD 159.57, -2.56), which tumbled to its lowest level since January.
The notion that an improving macro picture, albeit at a sluggish pace, diminishes the need for more monetary stimulus in the near term continues to bolster buying interest in the greenback. The dollar had ascended to a 0.5% gain against a basket of major foreign currencies by day's end.
Advancing Sectors: Tech +0.6%
Unchanged: Financials, Health Care
Declining Sectors: Consumer Discretionary -0.1%, Industrials -0.2%, Consumer Staples -0.3%, Materials -0.5%, Telecom -0.5%, Energy -1.0%, Utilities -1.4%DJ30 +16.42 NASDAQ +0.85 NQ100 +0.4% R2K -0.9% SP400 -0.7% SP500 -1.67 NASDAQ Adv/Vol/Dec 805/1.66 bln/1745 NYSE Adv/Vol/Dec 800/853 mln/2230
4:17PM First Solar announced it has hired James Hughes as Chief Commercial Officer (FSLR) 27.10 -0.22 :
3:33PM Motorola Solutions seeks declaratory judgment against Round Rock Research on patent claims (MSI) 50.50 +0.01 : The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, seeks a declaratory judgment that U.S. Patent Nos. 5,500,650; 5,627,544; 5,974,078; 6,459,726; and RE41,531 are not infringed by Motorola Solutions' RFID products and that one or more claims of Round Rock's patents are invalid.
2:33PM LSI Industries selected by Asbury Automotive Group to supply LED site lighting in both new and existing facilities. (LYTS) 7.12 -0.16 : Asbury operates 79 retail stores across the United States.
First Solar (FSLR) announced its 100% stake in Maryland Solar, a 20-megawatt photovoltaic solar power project in Hagerstown, Md.
7:14AM LSI Logic raises Q1 EPS, rev guidance above consensus (LSI) 8.54 : Co raises Q1 guidance, reflecting a stronger than expected hard disk drive market recovery and ramp of flash-based products issues upside guidance for Q1 (Mar), raises EPS to $0.12-0.16, excluding non-recurring items, from $0.09-0.15 vs. $0.12 Capital IQ Consensus Estimate; raises Q1 (Mar) revs to $585-615 mln from $550-590 mln vs. $571.73 mln Capital IQ Consensus Estimate. "We are benefiting from better than expected strength in the hard disk drive market in the quarter as our team has done a great job working with our customers to meet this additional demand. This revised guidance reflects strength in our hard disk drive business as well as upside in our projections for our flash-based products."
Clearwire (CLWR $2.24 +0.10) and Cricket announced that they have entered into a five-year wholesale agreement. With the agreement, Cricket will become the second operator to have signed on to leverage Clearwire's forthcoming LTE Advanced-ready network, which will provide capacity off-load services to supplement Cricket's own LTE network. Cricket currently plans to deploy LTE across approximately two-thirds of its current network footprint over the next two to three years and to cover up to approximately 25 million POPs with LTE network technology in 2012.
Kopin (KOPN $3.51 -0.12) was downgraded to Hold from Buy at Needham and the firm is removing their 12-month price target of $4.50. The firm notes, management provided 2012 annual guidance of $110-120 million, significantly below their $160 million estimate, primarily due to Defense Department budget cuts adversely affecting KOPN's military segment. With a projected loss of $(0.01) in 2012 and little earnings growth likely in 2013, they found ourselves hard pressed to maintain the Buy rating.
11:01 am Technology Sector trading higher today ahead of broader market
The tech sector is trading higher today, ahead of slight gains in the broader market. Semiconductors are showing relative strength in the tech space with the Philly Semi Index trading 0.6% higher. RBCN (+5.3%) is a notable leader in the chip index.
Among other major indices, the SPY is trading 0.1% higher, while the QQQ is 0.5% higher and the NASDAQ is trading 0.2% higher on the session. Among tech bellwethers, AAPL (+2.6%) is again showing notable strength today.
In earnings this morning, LSI (+5.3%) raised its Q1 guidance above consensus. In news last night, PMCS (+2.9%) announced a $275 mln stock repurchase program.
Elsewhere, RVSN (+4.5%) is set to be acquired by Avaya according to reports. Among rumors, we are hearing renewed FIO (+3.6%) takeover chatter making the rounds.
Among notable analyst upgrades this morning, AMT (+1.5%) was upgraded to Overweight at JP Morgan and ALU (+1.7%) was upgraded to Outperform at BMO Capital. Also, NXPI (+3.7%) and ALTR (+2.1%) was added to the Conviction Buy List at Goldman. Among downgrades, Needham downgraded KOPN (-3.6%) to Hold, JNPR (-2.0%) was downgraded to Market Perform at BMO Capital and CCI (-2.7%) was downgraded at Goldman and JP Morgan.
There are no notable names in tech scheduled to report results today after the close.