RTTNews - Stocks remain unable to sustain any major moves in early afternoon trading on Friday, amid limited reaction to the day's largely positive news on the earnings and housing front. The major averages are mixed by minute margins, with the Dow swinging between gains and losses.

Traders had a chance to react to Thursday's results from Google (GOOG) and IBM Corp. (IBM), which firmly beat Wall Street estimates, while financial stalwarts Bank of America (BAC) and Citigroup (C) revealed earnings this morning that also bested forecasts, but by more modest margins. Conglomerate General Electric (GE) and toymaker Mattel (MAT) also surpassed expectations.

On the economic front, government data released earlier today showed that new home building activity picked up again in June, following up on a sharp jump seen in the previous month.

A rise in permits pointed to signs of increased building down the road as well - raising some hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel for the battered home building sector.

The major indices continue to move sideways seeing little change in recent dealing. While the Dow is up by 4.46 points to 8,716.28, the Nasdaq is down by 4.81 points to 1,880.22 and the S&P 500 is down by 2.50 to 938.24.

Sector News

Notable losses have continued in commercial real estate stocks, with the Morgan Stanley Real Estate Index falling by 2.4 percent in early afternoon dealing. The index is being dragged down by shares of Regency Centers (REG) which have slumped by 10.6 percent. The stock is poised to close at its worst price in well over three months.

Weakness has also emerged in banking stocks, as reflected by the 2.6 percent pullback visible in the Kbw Banking Sector Index. With the fall the index is seeing losses for the second straight session, backing further off of a one month closing high set on Wednesday. The banking sector is being hurt by shares of Marshall & Ilsley Corp. (MI) which revealed second quarter revenues that fell well short of expectations, dragging the stock down by 12.5 percent.

While healthcare provider, defense and airline stocks are also turning in disappointing performances, moderate strength has emerged in resource stocks, with gold and natural stocks gaining on the day. The NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index and the NYSE Arca Natural Gas Index are both up by 1.1 percent, setting fresh multi-week highs.

The upward move in gold stocks has been precipitated by the rise in the price of the precious metal on the NYMEX, where it has advanced by $2.70 to $983.10 per ounce.

Stocks In The News

Bemis (BMS) is sliding after second quarter sales declined compared to the same period last year while also falling short of expectations. The firm revealed quarterly sales of $866.38 million compared to $979.96 million in the previous year, while Wall Street expected $883.20 million. The stock is down by 1.7 percent in early afternoon trading, backing off of its best closing price in over eight months set on Thursday.

Shares of BB&T Corp. (BBT) are also falling after the firm reported second quarter earnings of $0.20 per share, compared to $0.78 per share last year, while analysts forecast $0.21 per share. The stock is down by 7.4 percent, moving off of roughly a two-week closing high set on Wednesday.

On the other hand shares of Mattel (MAT) are on the rise after announcing second-quarter net income of $0.06 per share besting analyst expectations of the firm to breakeven for the quarter. The stock has surged by 5.1 percent, reaching its best intra-day price in over nine months earlier in the session.

In Focus: Earnings News, Housing Starts Data

As discussed earlier, traders delved into a slew of earnings results this morning, with IBM Corp. (IBM) reporting second-quarter net income of $2.32 per share, compared to $1.97 per share in the same quarter last year. The firm beat out Wall Street analyst forecasts of $2.02 per share, while raising its full-year 2009 income guidance.

Google Inc. (GOOG) posted adjusted second quarter net income of $5.36 per share, compared to $4.63 per share in the year-ago period. The results beat out analyst estimates of $5.09 per share.

Bank of America Corp. (BAC) announced a second-quarter net income $0.33 per share compared to $0.72 in the year ago quarter. The report also edged out analyst forecasts of $0.28 per share for the quarter.

Citigroup Inc. (C) reported that its second-quarter net income was $0.49 per share, compared to a loss of $0.55 in the same period last year. The results included an $11.1 billion pre-tax ($6.7 billion after-tax) gain associated with the Morgan Stanley Smith Barney joint venture transaction, which closed on June 1, 2009. The earnings report bested analyst forecasts of $0.37 per share.

General Electric Co. (GE) saw second-quarter net earnings of $0.24 per share, compared to $0.51 for the same period last year. The results inched past Wall Street forecasts of $0.23 per share.

Traders also digested a report from the U.S. Commerce Department revealed that housing starts rose 3.6 percent to an annual rate of 582,000 units in June from a revised pace of 562,000 units in the previous month.

Economists were expecting the figure to remain relatively stable with the pace of 532,000 units that was originally reported for May.

The report also showed that building permits, an indicator of future housing demand, climbed 8.7 percent to an annual pace of 563,000 from the revised May rate of 518,000.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region closed higher on Friday, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index climbing by 2.4 percent while Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index posted a much more modest gain of 0.6 percent.

The major European markets are closed on the upside, with the German DAX Index finished higher by 0.4 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 both rose by 0.6 percent.

In the bond markets, treasuries are continuing to see considerable weakness following the day's report from the housing sector. Subsequently, the benchmark ten-year note is trading at 3.614 percent, posting a gain of 5.7 basis points.

For comments and feedback: contact editorial@rttnews.com