Stocks quoted in this article:
Despite a shaky start to the session, the major market indexes are sitting on modest gains at midday. Traders have shrugged off a less-than-stellar earnings report from Dow component Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), as well as the European Commission's forecast of a euro-zone recession in 2012. Instead, a few positive economic reports have taken center stage. Jobless claims held steady last week, said the Labor Department, but the four-week moving average retreated to its lowest level since March 2008. Meanwhile, the FHFA home price index ticked 0.7% higher in December, stoking some cautious optimism over a potential recovery in the housing market. As a result, stocks have battled back from early losses to trade slightly higher this afternoon.
At last look, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA - 12,973.52) is up 34.9 points, or 0.3%. The S&P 500 Index (SPX - 1,360.70) has climbed 3 points, or 0.2%, and the Nasdaq Composite (COMP - 2,949.23) has gained 16.1 points, or 0.6%.
Checking in on Dow components, IBM (IBM - 198.39) has tacked on 2.3% to pace the 20 advancing blue chips. Conversely, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ - 27.50) is leading the 10 laggards with a post-earnings plunge of nearly 5%.
The CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX - 17.43) is down more than 4% at last check, extending a four-day slump beneath its 10-day moving average.
Among equities in focus, Vivus (VVUS - 19.70) vaulted to a new high of $21.44 after an FDA panel voted in favor of its obesity drug, Qnexa. The news has also provided a halo lift for sector peer Arena Pharmaceuticals (ARNA - 1.84), which has attracted some notable call volume today. On the earnings front, Sears Holdings (SHLD - 62.77) has surged 20% after unveiling a new turnaround plan, while Trina Solar (TSL - 8.82) has tumbled 9.6% in the wake of its poorly received quarterly report.