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After The Close - Stocks turned in an uneven performance today, with the venerable Dow Jones Industrial Average clearly lagging the broader market. At the end of the day, the Dow-30 had lost 24 points, but the tech-laden NASDAQ gained 29 points and market breadth was positive to the tune of two stocks advancing for every one declining on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Dow was held back by weakness in telephone stocks AT&T (T - Free AT&T Stock Report) and Verizon (VZ - Free Verizon Stock Report), where sentiment has slipped owing to rising competition from rival T-Mobile (TMUS). Poor showings from consumer stocks Procter & Gamble (PG - Free Procter & Gamble Stock Report) and Coca-Cola (KO - Free Coca-Cola Stock Report), which have been conspicuous for their disappointing growth lately, also hurt the widely watched index. In fact, Coca-Cola’s earnings report today did little to dispel the notion that it is a mature company trying to find ways to reinvigorate operations.

Otherwise, most stocks fared nicely, despite a less-than-stellar New York Federal Reserve reading on factory conditions in the Empire State region. But here, it seems this winter’s spate of rough weather is again being held at least partially to blame. Weakness in a few recent economic reports has been attributed to cold, snowy conditions that inhibited business activity.

Elsewhere, Actavis (ACT) announced plans to buy Forest Labs (FRX) in a cash-and-stock deal valued at about $25 billion. The move continues the consolidation trend in the pharmaceuticals industry, with Dublin-based generic drug specialist Actavis expanding its position in brand-name drugs with the proposed purchase. Shares of Forest Labs jumped on the news. ACT shares also did very well.   

In other markets, oil in New York trading rose more than $2 a barrel, to over $102. That helped push up the stocks of oil producers, such as Continental Resources (CLR).   

Meanwhile, bond prices rose, with the yield (which moves in the opposite direction of prices) on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note falling from 2.75% to 2.71%. Bonds and their equity counterparts, utility stocks, have done well this year. At the end of last year, the yield on the 10-year Treasury was close to 3.00%. But a modest pullback in stocks at the outset of 2014 over fears regarding the health of emerging markets, and weather-related economic weakness, have since apparently increased the attraction of the perceived safety of bonds.

Overall, it was a fairly constructive day for investors, although it remains to be seen if the developing recovery in stocks results in new highs across the board for the major averages. -Robert Mitkowski

At the time of this writing, the author had a position in T.

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12:15 PM EST - The major U.S. equity indexes are turning in a mixed performance on the first day of trading after the Presidents' Day break. The tech-laden NASDAQ was up about three-quarters of a percentage point at the noon hour in New York, while the broader S&P 500 was fractionally above breakeven and the Dow-30 Industrials a bit lower.

All three took a dip when the National Association of Home Builders reported that confidence among home builders took a dive in February. Specifically, the index dropped 10 points sequentially, to a reading of 46 this month, compared to consensus expectations of around 56. (Levels below 50 are taken to indicate a general pessimism among builders.) Notably, February also marked the lowest point registered by the index in nine months, reflecting concern over the impact of severe winter weather on prospective sales of single-family homes. Relatedly, the government’s report on new home construction is due out Wednesday, and the general outlook there is for a decline from January’s adjusted annual rate of 945,000 units.

Also weighing on trader sentiment was the latest report on manufacturing activity in the New York region. Survey results released by the New York Federal Reserve indicated a sequential decline of 8 points, to a reading of 4.5. By contrast, January’s reading of 12.5 was the highest since May of 2012. Although a decline was expected, results came in at about half of consensus estimates. As in the aforementioned home building report, extreme weather conditions were among the chief factors cited for the decline.

Meanwhile, trading was similarly mixed across the Atlantic, with London’s FTSE 100 showing a gain of 1%, while Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 flirted with the unchanged mark.  – Mario Ferro

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned. 

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Stocks to Watch from The Survey -Earnings season remains in full swing with several companies in the spotlight today, including beverage mogul and Dow-30 component Coca-Cola (KO - Free Coca-Cola Stock Report), which turned in a fourth-quarter report that left investors wanting more. Indeed, the stock is trading modestly lower in the premarket. Shares of Waste Management (WM), a waste disposal company, are also down in early morning trading on disappointing December-period results. Meantime, shares of cruise line operator Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) are up slightly ahead of the bell on solid figures.

In other news, drug maker Forest Labs. (FRX) has agreed to be acquired by industry peer Actavis plc (ACT) for a reported $25 billion in cash and stock. Shares of both companies are trading sharply higher in the premarket.   - Kathryn M. Drew

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.

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Before The Bell - Wall Street broke for the Presidents' Day holiday weekend last Friday, but not before the stock market put in its second winning week in a row and did so in a big way--at least with respect to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which has been a laggard index so far this year. Moreover, while the tech-laden NASDAQ, which has outdistanced the other equity averages so far in 2014, but which put in a rather feeble showing on Friday, still ended up a bit and in the process reached its highest point since July of 2000, when we were in the midst of the dot.com ill-fated boom. 

All told, the Dow added 127 points on the final day of the week, giving the bulls a nice Valentine's Day gift, in the process, while the Standard and Poor's 500 Index added a modest nine points. The NASDAQ, which as noted has been a leader this year, rose just three points, but is still leading the prominent large-cap indexes for the year to date.

The stock market, meanwhile, came within striking distance of a correction a couple of weeks ago, pushing down to more than a 7% loss in the 30-stock blue chip composite, before reversing course. However, when that much-anticipated and widely speculated upon event did not materialize and new Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen soothed skittish Wall Street minds by suggesting that the lead bank would favor continuity, the market celebrated, regaining much, and in the case of the NASDAQ, all of the ground lost in January and early February.

Helping the market, in addition to the Fed, has been some better news on the corporate earnings front. Interestingly, this improved showing has not come from some of the more celebrated names, but rather from some less-than-household reporting entities. The latest session saw some of that. However, it also saw some notable profit misses, including the issuance of weaker data and a very soft outlook from weight-loss icon Weight Watchers (WTW). That stock tumbled more than 25% on the day, making a new 52-week low in the process. The issue is now more than 50% below its 12-month high. On the other hand, the metals companies and other basic materials corporations generally did well, on a combination of higher gold prices and selectively better earnings metrics for the latest quarter. It was another story in the telecom area, where even some high-yielding names, such as Verizon (VZ - Free Verizon Stock Report) ran counter to the prevailing overall market uptrend.       

Then, there was the economy, which again disappointed. To wit, one day after the Commerce Department issued less-than-stellar data on January retail sales, that same government agency chimed in with disappointing January figures on industrial production and factory utilization. Both reports and the aforementioned retailing activity release blamed the weather for the poor showing. Our sense is that Mother Nature will get the blame next month unless the winter does an abrupt about face over the final 10 days of this month. However, most are buying the weather excuse and the weaker business tone is not dissuading the bulls just yet. Our sense is that there will have to be some catch up when spring arrives, or we could see a delayed reaction on the downside, with respect to the market's trading pattern.

Meantime, the economy will be on traders' minds again this week as we are due to get a series of key reports over the four days of this holiday shortened week on Wall Street. Specifically, we are scheduled to see data tomorrow on producer prices and housing starts for January. Then, Thursday will bring reports on weekly jobless claims, consumer prices, and the leading indicators. The week will then conclude with the issuance on sales of existing homes on Friday morning. The housing data, in particular, figure to be hurt by the weather.

Finally, as we lookout to the new trading day, we find that the markets were mixed overnight in Asia, but with notable strength in Japan and are tracing a similarly uneven path in Europe so far this morning. And over here, the S&P 500 Index futures are showing a two-point gain, while the NASDAQ futures, fresh off a near 14-year high are in the plus column to the tune of three points. There are some individual stories of note, however. Coca-Cola (KO - Free Coca-Cola Stock Report), the beverage giant and Dow-30 component has issued soft quarterly results, and that stock is indicating a small early decline. On the other hand, shares of generic drug maker Forest Labs (FRX) are soaring this morning. To wit, that stock which closed on Friday at $71.39 a share, is indicated to open at better than $95. The reason is that specialty pharmaceuticals maker Actavis Plc has made a $25 billion offer for Forest.   - Harvey S. Katz

At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.