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Midday Market Update

Stocks Hover Flat Line; Data Eyed

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U.S. Market    
Stocks were slightly down at midday. Corporate newsflow was slow, but a handful of economic data were reported today. 

U.S. retail sales improved in February by 1.1%, better than the expected tally of a 0.6% monthly increase, and 4.6% higher year over year. Gasoline sales and grocery stores saw some of the most spending, while sales improved modestly when subtracting gas, auto, and building materials transactions. The gain in retail sales brought down Treasury prices. Meanwhile, business inventories for January rose by 1.0%, seasonally adjusted, from December's levels, indicating companies had forecast improving sales in the following months. The number was higher than the expected 0.5% increase, but business sales for January dropped by 0.3%. 

Separately, prices of imports to the U.S. increased by 1.1% in February from January, the largest rise in six months, as a sharp increase in fuel costs brought prices higher. However, excluding fuel, prices were mostly flat from the previous month. 

The Dow and the Nasdaq were 0.1% lower at midday, while the S&P 500 was flat. 

Stocks on the Move
In the ongoing  Dell (DELL) shareholder debate amid the efforts of CEO Michael Dell to take the firm private, the company agreed to give Southeastern Asset Management a list of Dell shareholders. Southeastern, an activist Dell investor, could possibly use the list to contact other shareholders to vote against Michael Dell's acquisition as Southeastern thinks the buyout price is too low. Shares were 0.2% higher at midday. 

 Philip Morris International (PM) announced that Andre Calantzopoulos will be the firm's new CEO, while current chief executive Louis Camilleri will stay on as chairman of the company. Shares were 0.3% lower at midday. 

Foreign Markets
Stocks in Asia were down, with the Shanghai Composite losing 1.0% and the Hang Seng falling by 1.5%. The Nikkei 225 was 0.6% lower. 

European stocks were also mostly lower. The FTSE 100 lost 0.7%, and the Paris CAC fell by 0.2%. The DAX 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.