Stocks have shown a lack of direction over the course of the trading day on Monday, with the major averages having difficulty sustaining any significant moves. After turning higher over the course of the morning, stocks have moved back to the downside in the afternoon.
The choppy trading comes as traders digest news surrounding the swine flu outbreak as well as some positive earnings news.
In earnings news, telecom giant Verizon reported first quarter net income of $0.58 per share, compared to $0.57 per share in the year-ago period.
Excluding special items, net income attributable to Verizon was $0.63 per share, compared to $0.61 per share in same quarter last year. On average, analysts expected the company to report earnings of $0.59 per share.
Meanwhile, Whirlpool Corp. (WHR) reported first quarter earnings of $0.91 per share, compared to $1.22 in the prior year quarter. The company reported net sales of $3.57 billion, down from $4.61 billion in the year-ago period.
Additionally, auto giant General Motors (GM) said that it will cut 21,000 hourly jobs and reduce its U.S. dealer count by 42 percent by the end of 2010 under a revised viability plan. The company also plans to phase out its Pontiac brand and focus on its four core brands in the U.S.
In other news, expressed have concerns about the economic impact of the recent swine flu outbreak, with travel-related stocks showing particularly steep declines.
While Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer for Johnson Illington Advisors told RTTNews that traders used the swine flu scare as an excuse to take some money off the table, he warned that a full blown epidemic could lead to a 10 to 15 percent correction.
Although the flu does seem to be spreading, many doctors agree that the swine flu is no more panic worthy than any other breakout of the human flu during flu season.
President Barack Obama said Monday that the spreading swine flu is something that should raise the country's state of alert but should not be seen as a cause for alarm.
The major averages have moved to the upside in recent trading but currently remain stuck in negative territory. The Dow is currently down 53.76 at 8,022.53, the Nasdaq is down 14.91 at 1,679.38 and the S&P 500 is down 8.76 at 857.47.
Most of the Dow components have moved back to the downside over the course of the afternoon, contributing to the pullback by the blue chip index.
Credit card giant American Express (AXP) is turning in one of the Dow's worst performances, falling 5.2 percent. With the loss, the stock has dropped significantly from the nearly six-month closing high it reached on Friday.
DuPont (DD) and Alcoa (AA) are also posting noteworthy losses on the day, with DuPont down 4.9 percent and Alcoa down 4.3 percent.
Citigroup (C), Verizon (VZ), Intel (INTC), and Microsoft (MSFT) are among the other Dow components posting notable losses.
At the other end of the spectrum, investors are reacting quite well to General Motors' new cost cutting measures, driving shares of the troubled automaker up 18.9 percent on the day.
Boeing (BA) and Pfizer (PFE) are also posting considerable gains on the day. Boeing is up 2.1 percent, while Pfizer is holding onto a 1.3 percent gain.
Among the major sectors, few are suffering as much as the airline sector, driving the Amex Airline Index down 10.9 percent on the day.
Within the sector, US Airways (LCC) is one of the worst performers, with shares of the company falling 17.4 percent. With the decline, the stock has dropped from a two and a half month closing high it hit on Friday.
Real estate, steel, and oil services stocks are also continuing to show notable weakness. The Morgan Stanley REIT Index is down 8.2 percent, while the Amex Steel Index and the Philadelphia Oil Services Index are down 5.5 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
At the other end of the spectrum, healthcare, pharmaceutical, and health insurance stocks are leading the gainers. The Morgan Stanley Healthcare Provider Index is up 1.8 percent, while the Amex Pharmaceutical Index and Morgan Stanley Healthcare Payor Index are both up 1.5 percent.
Some telecommunication and utility stocks are also posting noteworthy gains on the session.
In overseas trading, stocks markets across the Asia-Pacific region closed mostly lower on Monday amid concerns about the impact of the swine flu outbreak. The Japanese market bucked the downtrend, however, with the Nikkei 255 Index edging up 0.2 percent.
Meanwhile, the major European markets ultimately closed mixed. While the French CAC 40 Index closed down slightly, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index posted gains of 0.3 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.
In the bond market, treasuries have moved to the upside in recent trading, climbing back near their best levels of the day. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark 10-year note is down 6 basis points at 2.934 percent.
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