Stocks Drift Higher in Midday Trade 12/22 11:33
U.S. financial markets drifted slightly higher in midday trading Monday,
although the gains were held back by discouraging data on U.S. home sales and a
deepening slide in oil prices.
(AP) -- U.S. financial markets drifted slightly higher in midday trading
Monday, although the gains were held back by discouraging data on U.S. home
sales and a deepening slide in oil prices. Stocks have notched gains the past
three trading days.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 87 points, or 0.5
percent, to 17,893 as of 12:06 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor's 500
index was flat at 2,070. The Nasdaq composite rose one point, or 0.02 percent,
SANTA RALLY: Stocks are continuing a pre-Christmas advance, which traders
often refer to as a "Santa" rally. Major indexes ended last week on a strong
note, finishing higher three days in a row. The Dow and S&P 500 are both up for
the month, while the Nasdaq is down.
THE QUOTE: "With the Dow being up substantially more than the S&P 500, I
would tend to say what's holding back the S&P is more related to its makeup
than it is a problem related to investors' perception or concerns," said Sam
Stovall, U.S. equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ. "We're firmly in a Santa
SECTOR WATCH: Seven of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index rose, led by
technology stocks. Semiconductor services company KLA-Tencor rose $1.84, or 2.6
percent, to $71.56. Energy stocks declined. The sector is down about 10 percent
SHELL GAME: Shares in Caesar's Entertainment jumped 14.8 percent on news the
casino operator will buy an affiliate in a bid to smooth the reorganization of
another struggling division and balance its debt load. The stock gained $1.99
HOUSING SPUTTERS: The National Association of Realtors reported that sales
of previously occupied homes fell 6.1 percent last month to a seasonally
adjusted annual rate of 4.93 million. That's the slowest pace in six months.
Over the past 12 months, sales have risen 2.1 percent. The disappointing data
sent shares in most homebuilders lower. NVR led among the decliners, sliding
$22.36, or 1.8 percent, to $1,214.
PUSHING BACK: Shares in drugmaker Gilead Sciences fell 15 percent after
pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts said it will no longer cover two of
Gilead's hepatitis C drugs as part of an effort to battle the high cost of
treatment for the disease. Gilead slid $15.18 to $93.27.
PAID OUT: Ocwen Financial slid 26 percent on news that the subprime mortgage
servicer's executive chairman will resign in a settlement that also provides
$150 million to homeowners. The stock shed $5.72 to $16.18.
EYE ON OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.65, or 2.9 percent, to $55.48 a
barrel. Oil peaked at $107 a barrel in June but has plunged since then due to
weak demand and abundant supplies, especially after Saudi Arabia and other OPEC
members agreed to maintain production levels.
ENERGY SLUMP: Several oil production and exploration companies tumbled as
the slide in oil prices deepened. Nabors Industries fell 79 cents, or 5.8
percent, to $12.84, while Chesapeake Energy slid $1.38, or 6.9 percent, to
$18.48. Range Resources shed $3.16, or 5.3 percent, to $56.71. Southwestern
Energy dropped $1.90, or 6.1 percent, to $29.10.
OVERSEAS MARKETS: In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.5 percent, while
Germany's DAX rose 0.8 percent. France's CAC 40 gained 0.3 percent. In Asia,
China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.6 percent, while South Korea's Kospi
added 0.7 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1.3 percent, while Japan's Nikkei
225 rose 0.1 percent.
BONDS: U.S. government bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury
note rose to 2.18 percent from 2.17 percent late Friday.