Stocks February Job Report!
Stocks on Wall Street were mixed at midday despite a surprisingly better than expected report on job growth in February. Most market watchers were gearing up for a miss due to weather related issues and when the number came out ahead of forecasts the buyers stepped in, which led the broader market to open sharply higher. The averages held their gains through the first hour of trading but began to weaken and turned mixed before 10 am ET. Only the bluechip Dow had been able to remain in positive ground by midday.
ECONOMIC EVENTS: In the U.S., 175K non-farm jobs were added last month, beating the expected increase of 150K jobs. The unemployment rate rose to 6.7% from last month’s 6.6% rate. The trade balance report for January showed a deficit of $39.1B, versus the expected $38.5B deficit. A report on consumer credit growth in January is expected at 3:00 pm ET.
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Grocery store owner Safeway (SWY) agreed to be acquired by Albertsons, which is owned by private equity firm Cerberus, for a total value estimated at $40 per Safeway share. Safeway shareholders will receive $32.50 per share in cash, will have the right to receive pro-rata distributions of proceeds from primarily non-core assets with an estimated value of $3.65 per share, and Safeway’s shares of Blackhawk (HAWK), with a current value of $3.95 per Safeway share, will still be distributed. Analysts were mixed in their opinions about the deal, with Deutsche Bank saying it views the $40 per share price as too low and adding it believes grocery peer Kroger (KR) should bid during the deal’s 21 day go-shop period. Conversely, UBS upgraded Safeway to Neutral following the acquisition news and said it does not expect a counter bid by Kroger. At midday, Safeway shares were down nearly 3% to $38.40, while Kroger was up 1.5% to trade near $44 per share… Shares of closeout retailer Big Lots (BIG) spiked 19% after the company reported fourth results, said the wind-down of its Canadian operations is on schedule, and approved a $125M share repurchase program… Shoe and apparel retailer Foot Locker’s (FL) shares rose 7% after the company reported fourth quarter earnings that beat the consensus estimate. Following the company’s report, analysts at Deutsche Bank raised their price target on Foot Locker shares to $48, noting that the company’s FY14 guidance was in-line with Street expectations, unlike most retailers.
Among the notable gainers was Cooper Companies (COO), which was up more than 5% near noon following its quarterly report. The results prompted analysts from at least two research firms to raise their price target on Cooper shares. Among the noteworthy losers following a disappointing quarterly report was medical technology company Analogic (ALOG), down nearly 17%. Also lower was Progress Software (PRGS), which fell 10% after cutting its first quarter profit and sales outlook last night.