Stocks quoted in this article:
Stocks are wobbling around the breakeven line today, with no major earnings or economic reports to direct traffic. With all quiet on the domestic front, Wall Street has turned its attention to a surprisingly wide trade gap for China, which has revived concerns about the possibility of a "hard landing" for the massive emerging market. However, with a policy decision due out tomorrow from the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), traders seem unwilling to make any big moves in today's session. As we head into the second half of the day, our equity benchmarks are hovering between modest gains and minor losses.
At last look, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA - 12,953.92) is up 31.9 points, or 0.3%. The S&P 500 Index (SPX - 1,369.47) is down 1.4 points, or 0.1%, and the Nasdaq Composite (COMP - 2,982.34) is off 6 points, or 0.2%.
Checking in on Dow components, Exxon Mobil (XOM - 85.39) is up 1.3% to lead the 22 advancing blue chips into the black. Among the eight laggards, JPMorgan Chase (JPM - 40.38) is faring the worst, with a loss of 1.6%.
The CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX - 16.34) has slipped 4.5% at midday, after bottoming out at 15.23 earlier -- its first intraday breach of 16 since July 8, 2011.
Among equities in focus, Youku (YOKU - 29.44) has soared 17.7% after inking a deal to acquire rival firm Tudou. In brokerage news, homebuilder PulteGroup (PHM - 9.16) has gained 1.6% following an upgrade to "overweight" at Barclays, while software stock Oracle (ORCL - 29.49) is off 2.1% after Jefferies downgraded the shares to "hold." Over in the options pits, Zions Bancorporation (ZION - 18.69) was singled out for a long strangle, as Aruba Networks (ARUN - 22.66) drew the attention of front-month call buyers.