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Midday Market Update

Stocks Mostly Flat on Data, G-20

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U.S. Market    
Stocks were mostly listless at midday following several economic data and earnings reports in the United States and cautious optimism of the G-20 summit that began in Moscow today. At the summit, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said that economic conditions are far from healthy, but he has hopes that the results from domestic policies in the U.S. will help strengthen the global economy. 

U.S. industrial production decreased slightly by 0.1% in January, countering the expected 0.2% increase. Capacity utilization also fell to 79.1%, but not as much as the expected drop to 78.9%. Output in the automotive and other manufacturing industries slowed last month, but the overall tally was still 2.1% higher year over year. 

Manufacturing activity in the Fed Bank of New York's region improved to 10.04 this month according to the Empire State Manufacturing Survey. The index shows activity is expanding from its negative 7.78 contractionary reading last month. It was also well-higher than the expected negative 3.0 reading. 

Also coming in positive was the Thomson-Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index, which was 76.3 for the February preliminary reading, up from the final January index of 73.8. It was also higher than the forecast of 75. 

The Dow, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq were all flat at midday. 

Stocks on the Move
 Kraft Foods Group (KRFT) saw its fourth-quarter earnings plunge by 72% on account of charges and a drop in revenue. However, the company also announced a number of internal strategies that should help improve the business going forward, and it also increased its full-year earnings-per-share forecast. Shares were 0.1% higher at midday. 

 J.M. Smucker's (SJM) third-quarter profit improved by 32% to $154.2 million. Revenue also improved, as well, and the company sees a 6% net sales expansion in 2013. Shares were 0.9% higher at midday. 

 VF Corp.'s (VFC) shares had risen by 3.4% by midday after the company posted a 30% gain in fourth-quarter earnings on the back of a 4.2% gain in revenue. 

Despite a 55% drop in year-over-year fourth-quarter earnings, on account of litigation gains in the previous year,  Ventas (VTR) shares were 2.1% higher at midday as the company reported a 17% improvement in revenue and said that funds from operations for the current year could be as much as five cents higher than Wall Street forecasts. 

Foreign Markets
A strengthening yen ahead of the G-20 summit sent the Nikkei 225 1.2% lower Friday. The Hang Seng improved slightly to 0.1%. Markets on mainland China remained closed for a holiday. 

European stocks were mostly lower, as the Paris CAC fell by 0.3% and the DAX lost 0.5%. The FTSE 100 was flat. 

Kevin O'Shaughnessy does not own (actual or beneficial) shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.