|12:29 EDT||AFFY, BKS, ELN, DVAX, ZNGA||On The Fly: Midday Wrap |
Stocks on Wall Street were lower at midday as worries about Italy's election dented European markets and the U.S. averages followed suit. Stocks trading in New York began the session moderately higher as the market looked to extend Friday's gains. The market appeared to be on its way to enjoying a positive session but by mid-morning the gains had been pared and the averages turned mixed. The weakness began following reports indicating Silvio Berlusconi's party may win many senate seats, sparking fear that Italy may abandon its austerity plans... ECONOMIC EVENTS: In the U.S., two regional Federal Reserve banks reported data. The Chicago Fed national activity index dropped to -0.32 in January, indicating that economic activity in the month was below average trends. Also, the Dallas Fed's manufacturing index dropped back to 2.2 in February, erasing the 3 point increase to 5.5 in the prior month. In Europe, Italy's markets were volatile as polls indicated that formerly ousted prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is faring better than expected in the nation's general election. In China, HSBC's flash PMI manufacturing index fell to 50.4 in February from 52.3 in January. This was a worse than expected drop, though Lunar New Year may have distorted the February data... COMPANY NEWS: Shares of bookseller Barnes & Noble (BKS) jumped 12% after the company’s founder, largest stockholder and Chairman of the Board Leonard Riggio said he plans to propose to purchase all of the assets of the retail business of the company. The company publicly acknowledged the plan for an offer, which will exclude its NOOK e-reader business, and said it will set up a committee to evaluate its best course of action... MAJOR MOVERS: Among the notable gainers was Zynga (ZNGA), which advanced another 12% after rising about 8% on Friday following Nevada's passage of a bill to legalize online gambling in the state. Also higher were shares of Elan (ELN), which rose over 6% to $11.28 near noon after getting an $11 per share takeover offer from Royalty Pharma. Among the noteworthy losers was Affymax (AFFY), which plunged 85% after the company initiated a safety recall for its anemia drug Omontys and the stock was downgraded by at least four analyst firms. Also lower were shares of Dynavax (DVAX), which fell 30% after the FDA said its investigational adult hepatitis B vaccine cannot be approved without further safety evaluation... INDICES: Near noon, the Dow was down 51.87, or 0.37%, to 13,948.70; the Nasdaq was down 3.08, or 0.10%, to 3,158.74; and the S&P 500 was down 5.06, or 0.33%, to 1,510.54.