Stocks Waver Between Small Gains and Losses in Midday Trade

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. (Reuters/Brendan McDermid)
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. (Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

Stocks are wavering between gains and losses in midday trading Thursday as investors sift through a handful of earnings reports. Drug company Mylan rose, but Signet Jewelers and Dollar General fell after the retailers reported quarterly results that disappointed investors.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 29 points, or 0.2 percent, to 18,452 as of 12:14 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was little changed at 2,175. The Nasdaq composite rose one point, or less than 0.1 percent, to 5,219.

PRINTER JAM: Computer and printer maker HP fell 19 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $14.21 after it beat expectations for its fiscal third quarter earnings but gave an outlook for the current quarter results that disappointed.

SALES SLUMP: Dollar General dropped $12.95, or 14 percent, to $78.84 after its earnings and revenue fell short of analysts’ forecasts. Signet Jewelers dropped $12.39, or nearly 13 percent, to $83.11 after its results also missed estimates.

ADRENALINE BOOST: EpiPen maker Mylan rose 91 cents, or 2 percent, to $44.06, after two days of steep drops in the face of heated criticism over price hikes for its EpiPen emergency allergy treatment. The company announced Thursday that it is bulking up programs that help patients pay for the drug.

LITTLE TRADING: Stocks have been flitting between gains and losses in recent days on very little trading volume. On Monday, the number of shares trading hands on the New York Stock Exchange hit the lowest level so far this year.

THE QUOTE: Many traders are on vacation and “we’re mostly finished with earnings season and we don’t have a lot of economic news,” said Joseph Tanious, senior investment strategist at Bessemer Trust. “We’re in an information vacuum.”

ORDERS INCREASE: Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods surged in July, lifted in part by the biggest increase in orders in a key investment category since January. The Commerce Department says that orders for durable goods jumped 4.4 percent in July, partly due to increase in demand for commercial aircraft.

OVERSEAS: Germany’s DAX dropped 0.9 percent after a survey showed business confidence fell unexpectedly in August. France’s CAC-40 lost 0.7 and Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.3 percent. Earlier in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.2 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was flat.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 28 cents to $47.05 a barrel. Brent crude, which is used to price oil internationally, rose 55 cents to $49.60 a barrel.

BONDS, CURRENCIES: U.S. government bond prices didn’t move much. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held steady at 1.56 percent. The dollar rose to 100.59 yen, while the euro rose to $1.1273 from $1.1261.

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