Stocks are quietly trading sideways on Monday. Investors are not sure how to react to the various news stories crossing the wires. Bullish M&A activity was offset by lackluster earnings news and a new push by the White House on healthcare. The dollar is inching lower while commodities are mixed. Crude oil is up 28 cents to $80 a barrel. Gold futures are down about $5 to $1,116 an ounce.
Asian markets were mostly higher. The Chinese Shanghai index did not plunge as many expected it would. Trading was quiet with a 0.49% decline toward round-number support at the 3,000 level. The Hong Kong Hang Seng produced a big bounce and almost erased Friday's decline with Monday's 2.4% gain. The Japanese NIKKEI did erase Friday's decline with a big 2.7% bounce. Exporters led the way as the yen weakened against the dollar. Meanwhile Toyota Motors announced that the company has received a subpoena from a U.S. grand jury looking for documents regarding some of Toyota's safety problems.
It was a relatively quiet day in Europe. After five days of gains stocks hit some profit taking. There was some speculation that the euro currency might be seeing a little short squeeze against the dollar. There has been a record amount of net short positions in the euro for three weeks in a row. By the closing bell the English FTSE lost 0.11%. The French CAC-40 gave up 0.34%. The German DAX fell 0.59%.
Merger and acquisition news made headlines today with oil service giant Schlumberger (SLB) announcing a bid to buy Smith International (SII) in a deal valued in the $10 to $11 billion range. SLB believes that shale oil and gas drilling will remain a significant business going forward and want to increase their market share. Shares of SII are up 8.5% near $41 while SLB is down 3.8% with traders buying the dip this morning near $60 and its 200-dma.
Plus, there was a surprise midday announcement that Thermo-Fisher Scientific was making an unsolicited bid to buy Millipore. My charts on MIL are a little crazy. It looks like there was a bad tick setting the intraday high on MIL at $182.68. The stock is currently trading up 21% near $86 a share.
There were some late-season earnings reports from CPB and LOW this morning. CPB reported a profit of 74 cents, which was in-line with estimates. Revenues missed expectations at $2.15 billion for the quarter. CPB reaffirmed their 2010 earnings guidance in the $2.41-2.45 range. Meanwhile home improvement retailers Lowes (LOW) beat Wall Street's estimates by 2 cents with a profit of 14 cents a share. Revenues beat estimates at $10.17 billion. Unfortunately LOW said the first quarter could be tough and lowered their earnings estimates. Yet shares of LOW are not seeing much weakness on its warning with the stock almost unchanged. We'll see a lot more news out of the retail sector this week with earnings from the Gap Inc., Home Depot, Macy's, and Target.
Another story making major headlines this morning was President Obama's new push on healthcare. Obama is due to host a televised debate on healthcare later this week. Thus it was somewhat surprising to see a brand new $1 trillion, 10-year healthcare plan on the WhiteHouse website this morning. Obama's new plan is supposed to cover 31 million citizens without adding to the federal deficit. Evidently the $1 trillion bill would be paid by new fees on health care companies, new taxes, and Medicare cut backs. The HMO healthcare index is up 1.2% on the session.
Chart of the S&P 500:
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Chart of the Russell 2000 index:
We're not seeing too much movement on the OptionInvestor.com play list. TEVA is showing some relative strength. Shares of X did hit our target to take profits at $54.00. AAPL is flirting with a breakdown under the $200 level. JPM is showing some relative strength with a 2.1% gain and a new surge past $40 and its 200-dma.