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Midday Market Update

Stocks Choppy; Italian Election Results Eyed

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U.S. Market    
Stocks were choppy this morning as the market eyed Italian election returns.

Early exit polls pointed to a victory by a center-left coalition led by Luigi Bersani in Italy’s general election. Bersani’s victory is seen as a sign that Italy will continue on the reformist path began by current Prime Minister Mario Monti. However, some media reports have indicated that former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's coalition is performing better than initially expected, complicating the picture somewhat.

The Chicago Fed said that its index of national industrial production fell to -0.32 in January from 0.25 in December.  Economists had expected an index reading of 0.02. The less volatile three-month moving average rose to 0.30 in the month from 0.23 in December.

At midday the Dow and S&P 500 were flat while the Nasdaq was up 0.2%.

Stocks on the Move
Shares of  Barnes & Noble (BKS) rose almost 9% after the firms’ Chairman Leonard Riggio announced his intent to  purchase all of the assets of the company's retail business. Few details were provided and the ultimate purchase price "would be negotiated with the Board.” Sepearing the retail and Nook business could free up cash flow for the retail business, reduce its digital investment burden, allow management to quietly refocus on its stores (as the last remaining national bookseller), and keep Riggio actively engaged in the business he has built over the past four decades.

Home-improvement retailer  Lowe's (LOW) said this morning that its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings fell 11%. The firm’s earnings per share of $2.05 was slightly below analyst expectations of $2.09 a share. However, same-store sales growth of 1.9% in the quarter exceeded the 0.7% expected by analysts. Lowe’s shares were up less than 1% at midday.

Foreign Markets
European markets were higher on Italian election results. In late trading, the FTSE 100Paris CAC and Germany’s DAX were up 0.3%, 0.6% and 1.5% respectively.

Asian shares were also higher on the day. The Hang Seng was up 0.2%, the Shanghai Composite was 0.5 higher while the Nikkei 225 advanced 2.4%.

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