On The Fly: Top stock stories at midday
Stocks have been mixed throughout the morning, with the Nasdaq leading and the Dow lagging. The Nasdaq has been helped in part by solid earnings reports, particularly the blowout results posted by Facebook (FB), but also M&A activity. Oil remains a trouble spot as the commodity remains under pressure and is now struggling to stay above $41 a barrel. ECONOMIC EVENTS: In the U.S., EIA data showed that natural gas inventories grew by 17 billion cubic feet of gas during the week ended July 22, which was lower than the 26 bcf expected to be added to storage. COMPANY NEWS: Facebook is up by about 1% near $125 per share at midday, though that is well off the stock's earlier highs on the heels of its much better than expected earnings report last night. With the advance, and a 1% decline in share of Exxon Mobil shares, the social network operator has edged closer to displacing the oil major as the fourth-largest publicly traded company in the U.S. A number of Wall Street analysts have hiked their price targets for Facebook shares following the report, but Monness Crespi analyst James Cakmak was unique in downgrading Facebook to Neutral this morning and suggesting it may be "prudent to take some profits" at this time... Ford (F), conversely, is suffering mightily after its profits fell short of expectations. The automaker, which warned that it now sees "risks challenging achieving" its full year guidance of company pretax profit and operating margin equal to or better than last year, saw its shares slide nearly 10% after its quarterly report... Shares of NetSuite (N) are rallying after the announcement that the company has agreed to be acquired by Oracle (ORCL) for $109 per share in cash, or approximately $9.3B. This comes after long-standing rumors of a possible tie-up of the two were rekindled in recent weeks, though those rumors were dismissed by many Wall Street analysts. MAJOR MOVERS: Among the notable gainers was Healthways (HWAY), which advanced about 32% after the company announced it has completed its strategic assessment and signed a definitive agreement to sell its Total Population Health Services business to Sharecare. After dropping over 28% yesterday following a report of a Department of Justice criminal probe, Alere (ALR) had gained almost 24% near noon, almost offsetting Wednesday's losses. This morning the company confirmed the DoJ's subpoena and said it was fully cooperating with the investigation. Further, Alere noted that it believes the matter to which the subpoena relates is not material. Additionally, Cirrus Logic (CRUS) gained more than 18% after the company reported first quarter results. Among the noteworthy losers was Infinera (INFN), which dropped 34% following quarterly results and reduced guidance. After the earnings release, six research firms downgraded the stock to Neutral-equivalent ratings. Also lower following earnings was GNC (GNC), which slipped about 19.5%. Additionally, the company announced that its CEO Michael Archbold was stepping down and suspended its previous fiscal year 2016 guidance. Piper Jaffray analyst Sean Naughton downgraded the stock to Neutral after the news. INDEXES: Near midday, the Dow was down 69.10, or 0.37%, to 18,403.07, the Nasdaq was up 2.37, or 0.05%, to 5,142.18, and the S&P 500 was down 2.93, or 0.14%, to 2,163.65.