Stocks wavered at midday as investors focused on mixed earnings, while the ADP National Employment Report showed a month-to-month increase of 187,000 jobs in January on a seasonally adjusted basis, with the services sector leading the charge. However, last month's employment reading was revised downward to 247,000 from 297,000. Investors will be closely watching the government's report this Friday.
Stocks on the Move
Hershey's (HSY) fourth-quarter sales increased 4.8% year over year (excluding favorable foreign currency movements), reflecting higher prices (up 1.6%) and increased volume (up 3.2%). Morningstar analysts say that confectionery sales have held up well throughout this difficult economic environment, supporting the assertion that confectionery offerings are perceived as an affordable luxury. At midday, shares were up 2.7%.
Time Warner (TWX) reported a fourth-quarter profit increase of 22%. Revenue also increased 8.4% to $7.81 billion, beating analysts expectations. Time Warner's board also approved an 11% increase to the company's dividend. The payout's increase to 94 cents from 85 cents annually would cost the company an additional $101.2 million a year. Shares were up 6.8% at midday.
Late yesterday, Aflac (AFL) reported that its fourth-quarter net earnings increased to $437 million, or $0.92 per share, from $0.53 per share a year ago. This year's period included aftertax investment losses of $191 million, or $0.41 per share, compared with realized losses of $0.65 per share last year. Impairments of three Irish financial services companies accounted for $263 million of this year's realized losses, but they were partially offset by realized gains due to a change in accounting rules. Aflac shares were down 3.0% at midday.
Overseas markets were a little mixed with the FTSE 100 gaining 0.7%, but the Paris CAC lost 0.1%. The DAX was flat. In Asia, earnings in Japan lifted the Nikkei 225 1.8%. The Hang Seng was also up 1.8%, while the Shanghai Composite gained 0.3%.
Kevin O'Shaughnessy does not own (actual or beneficial) shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.