On The Fly: Top stock stories at midday
Stocks opened the day quietly but the S&P and the other major averages are slightly lower at midday, giving back some of their advance in the wake of news of OPEC moving toward a deal to lower production among its participant nations. The losses have been modest, however, and WTI crude oil is up again, rising about 2% to trade near $48 per barrel. ECONOMIC NEWS: In the U.S., the government revised its second quarter GDP growth estimate up to 1.4%, which is up from the prior 1.1% growth estimate and above the 1.3% growth that was forecast. Initial jobless claims rose 3,000 to 254,000 in the week ended September 24, versus the forecast for 260,000 first-time claims. The pending home sale index fell 2.4% to 108.5 in August. The international trade in goods balance showed a $58.4B deficit in August, versus the consensus expectation for a deficit of about $62B. In Asia, Japan's retail sales fell 1.1% in August. In Europe, Germany's unemployment rate fell below 6% in September. COMPANY NEWS: National Amusements, which controls the majority of CBS (CBS) and Viacom's (VIAB) voting stock, announced that it has asked the boards of the two media companies to consider a potential combination. Additionally, National Amusements said it will not accept any acquisition of the companies by a third party. In response, Viacom announced that its board of directors has received the letter from National Amusements and expects that the Viacom board of directors will form a special committee of independent directors to "carefully consider" the request. CBS, meanwhile, also confirmed that its board of directors has received the letter, adding that the company will "take appropriate action to evaluate what is in the best interest of CBS Corporation and its shareholders"... Shares of PepsiCo (PEP) are up 1% near noon after the snack food and beverage giant reported better than expected third quarter revenue and earnings, and raised its full year 2016 core constant currency earnings per share growth guidance. Also higher after earnings is ConAgra Foods (CAG), which has advanced about 7.5% after the food processor and packager reported better than expected first quarter earnings per share. ConAgra also said it remains on-track to execute the spin-off of the Lamb Weston business this fall. MAJOR MOVERS: Among the notable gainers was Pier 1 Imports (PIR), which has advanced about 9% after the home goods retailer reported an in-line loss for the second quarter. Also higher was Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals (ARWR), which gained almost 10% after the company and Amgen (AMGN) announced two license and collaboration agreements to develop and commercialize RNA interference therapies for cardiovascular disease. Among the noteworthy losers was Fitbit (FIT), which dropped more than 9% after research firm Pacific Crest downgraded the stock to Underweight from Sector Weight, saying its checks indicate that the company's new Charge 2 fitness wristband "is off to a slow start." Also lower was Intra-Cellular Therapies (ITCI), which plunged over 63% after neither dose of its schizophrenia drug separated from placebo on the primary endpoint in a Phase 3 clinical trial. Additionally, Stein Mart (SMRT) slid 11% after the company announced that Dawn Robertson has tendered her resignation as CEO and as a director. Sidoti downgraded the stock to Neutral following the news. INDEXES: Near midday, the Dow was down 67.86, or 0.37%, to 18,271.38, the Nasdaq was down 25.77, or 0.48%, to 5,292.78, and the S&P 500 was down 7.21, or 0.33%, to 2,164.16.