Stocks waver on mixed economic data

The number of people seeking first-time unemployment benefits rises. Existing-home sales climb. Leading-indicators index jumps more than expected. Blockbuster files for bankruptcy.

By TheStreet Staff Sep 23, 2010 7:54AM

TheStreetBy Melinda Peer, TheStreet


Updated at 1:17 p.m. ET


Stocks were fluctuating Thursday as investors weighed an increase in jobless claims and growth in existing-home sales.


At 1:17 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU) was down by 12 points, or 0.1%, at 10,728. The S&P 500 ($INX) was down by 1.6 points, or 0.1%, at 1,133. Technology stocks were rallying, lifting the Nasdaq ($COMPX) by 11 points, or 0.5%, at 2,346.


The National Association of Realtors said existing-home sales rose to 4.13 million in August from 3.84 million in July, meeting economists' expectations, according to 


The Conference Board's August leading indicators index rose 0.3%, exceeding expectations for growth of 0.1%. August’s level compares with July’s 0.1% increase.


Fears about the economic recovery flared earlier today after the Labor Department said the number of people seeking unemployment benefits for the first time rose 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 465,000 for for the week ended Sept. 18. Economists had expected initial jobless claims to remain unchanged from a week earlier.


An index based on a survey of purchasing managers in the euro zone by London-based Markit Economics fell to 53.8 in September from 56.2 in August, adding to concerns about growth. Economists had expected the index to fall to 55.7, according to Bloomberg.

Alcoa (AA) was the top performing Dow stock, rising 3%, followed by Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Caterpillar (CAT). Walt Disney (DIS) was the benchmark's biggest laggard, losing 1.6%.


In company news, Starbucks (SBUX) is increasing prices on certain drinks in specific markets, citing higher ingredient costs. The shares were climbing 0.8% to $26.14.


Shares of Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) were rising 4.5% to $43.92 after the retailer topped expectations with a third-quarter profit of 70 cents a share and boosted its year-end profit growth expectations.


Blockbuster filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and reached an agreement with bondholders to recapitalize its balance sheet. The video-rental chain said the move will reduce its debt to an estimated $100 million from nearly $1 billion.


Rite Aid (RAD) shares were tumbling 13% to 95 cents after the drugstore chain reported a wider second-quarter loss of 23 cents a share, which exceeded the loss of 16 cents a share that analysts had been projecting. Revenue also dropped during the quarter and same-store sales fell 1.5%.


McDonald's (MCD) increased its quarterly dividend 11% to 61 cents a share. Shares were falling 0.2% to $75.02.


The Energy Information Administration said natural gas storage levels added 73 billion cubic feet in the week ended Sept. 17, coming in on the low end of the injection range of 77 to 81 billion cubic feet that analysts polled by Platts had been expecting.


The October natural gas contract was gaining 6 cents to trade at $4.03 per million British thermal units. Crude oil for November delivery was off by 67 cents at $74.04 a barrel.


The December gold contract, the most actively traded gold future, was losing $1.80 at $1,2940.30 an ounce.


The dollar was trading higher against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index up by 0.3%, while the benchmark 10-year Treasury note strengthened 9/32, diluting the yield to 2.524%.  


The FTSE in London was losing 1.3%, and the DAX in Frankfurt was down by 1.1%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng and Japan's Nikkei were closed for holidays.


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