Stocks continue to see uncertainty in mid-afternoon on Wednesday as investors mull over a slew of news on both the economic and corporate front. The major averages have been mixed for much of the trading day.
While the Federal Reserve's recently released Beige Book report showed that overall economic activity contracted further or remained weak, it said five of the twelve Fed districts noted a moderation in the pace of decline.
The report, a compilation of anecdotal evidence on economic conditions from each of the twelve Federal Reserve districts, also noted that several districts saw signs that activity in some sectors was stabilizing at a low level.
Earlier in the day, the Labor Department said its consumer price index fell 0.1 percent in March following a 0.4 percent increase the month before. The decline came as a surprise to economists, who had expected prices to edge up 0.1 percent.
Excluding food and energy prices, the core consumer price index rose 0.2 percent for the third consecutive month. Economists had been expecting a 0.1 percent increase in core prices.
Separately, the Fed's industrial production report showed that production fell 1.5 percent in March, while capacity utilization dropped to 69.3 percent. Economists expected industrial production to decline 0.9 percent in March, while capacity utilization was expected to come in at 69.6 percent.
Meanwhile, in corporate news, Intel (INTC) reported first quarter earnings of $0.11 per share on revenues of $7.1 billion. While the results were down year-over-year, they exceeded analyst estimates of earnings of $0.03 per share on revenues of $6.98 billion.
However, Intel disappointed investors by saying that was not providing a revenue outlook for the second quarter at this time due to economic uncertainty and limited visibility. Subsequently, shares of the semiconductor giant are down 3.9 percent on the day.
In other news, President Obama pledged to reform the tax system Wednesday, calling for a simpler tax system that is fair to the middle-class. Speaking on the day that income taxes are due, the president focused on middle class families facing difficult decisions in the recession, and pledged to restructure the tax system.
For too long, we've seen taxes used as a wedge to scare people into supporting policies that actually increased the burden on working people instead of helping them live their dreams, Obama said. That has to change, and that's the work that we've begun.
The major averages have shown a notable move to the downside in recent trading, although the Dow is currently holding onto a modest gain. While the Dow is up 9.80 at 7,929.98, the Nasdaq is down 19.61 at 1,606.11 and the S&P 500 is down 1.47 at 840.03.
While the Dow has seen some volatility over the course of the trading day, a majority of the components of the blue chip index are currently in positive territory.
Pfizer (PFE) is turning in on of the Dow's best performances, with the drug giant currently posting a 3.2 percent. With the advance, shares of Pfizer have moved well off the one-month closing low set in the previous session.
General Motors (GM), JP Morgan (JPM), and Procter & Gamble (PG) are also seeing noteworthy advances. General Motors is up 4.5 percent, while JP Morgan and Procter & Gamble are both posting 3 percent gains.
While American Express (AXP) and United technologies (UTX) are also posting strong gains, shares of Citigroup (C) are seeing considerable weakness, falling 5.7 percent.
Along with Intel, Microsoft (MSFT), Bank of America (BAC), and McDonald's (MCD) are also posting notable losses, helping to limit the upside for the Dow.
On the upside some of the strongest performances of the session are coming out of the housing sector, driving the Philadelphia Housing Index 3.4 percent higher on the day. With the advance, the index has risen over some recent resistance and to its highest level in over three months.
Real estate, airline and tobacco stocks are also posting notable gains on the day, with the Morgan Stanley REIT Index up 3.6 percent, while the Amex Airline Index and the Amex Tobacco Index are posting gains of 1.8 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively.
Meanwhile, semiconductor and health insurance stocks are leading the declining stocks. The Philadelphia Semiconductor Index is down 2.8 percent, while the Morgan Stanley Healthcare Payor Index is down 1.7 percent.
Retail, electronic storage, and natural gas stocks are also showing noteworthy weakness during the session.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance on Wednesday. While the markets in Hong Kong and China closed higher, notable weakness was visible in Japan and South Korea.
Meanwhile, the major European markets all ended the day lower, with the French CAC 40 Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 both closing down 0.5 percent, while the German DAX Index posted a 0.2 percent loss.
In the bond market, treasuries are showing considerable uncertainty. Currently, the yield on the benchmark 10-year note is down 1.1 basis points at 2.775 percent.
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