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Stocks Edge Lower as Traders Wait on Washington

Dan Berman
Hot Stock Minute

Wall Street is waiting on Washington as precious time ticks away in the budget battle. Stocks edged lower as traders kept an eye on the Senate floor. That's where Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz stole the spotlight with a fake filibuster, aimed at tying funding for the health care overhaul to the budget at large. The big economic news of the day was that new home sales rose 7.9% in August to an annual rate of 421,000 units. Durable goods orders crept up 0.1%. Expectations had been for a decline of 0.5%.

Poll: What do you think of Senator Ted Cruz on the Senate floor?

J.C. Penney (JCP) took another plunge today, falling 15% after Goldman Sachs said it expects JCP sales to improve more slowly than previously thought. Penney's prospects went from bad to worse last year when it eliminated coupons and sales events. A change in CEOs, a battle with billionaire Bill Ackman, and an exit from major shareholder Vornado Realty Trust have since followed. The stock is now down 43% year-to-date.

BlackBerry (BBRY) bled 6% today. Shares moved closer to $8 than the $9 mark which was floated for a potential buyout of the company. On Monday there was talk that Fairfax Financial was ready to take BlackBerry private for what would amount to about $9 per share, but that deal is far from sealed.

Ascena Retail (ASNA) climbed 16% after reporting adjusted earnings of 34-cents a share, blowing past estimates of 20-cents. Revenue was also slightly higher than consensus at $1.2-billion versus $1.6-billion. Ascena is the parent company of Dress Barn, Maurice's and Lane Bryant. It says the robust quarter was reflective of more prolonged strength and is therefore upping full-year forecasts. Prior to today, Ascena shares were down 2% year-to-date.

Clovis Oncology (CLVS) fell 11% on a report from Bloomberg saying the company has been unsuccessful in efforts to sell itself. Clovis does not yet have any approved drugs. In fact, all of its treatments are in early stages of clinical trials. Prior to today's drop, Clovis was up 333% year-to-date, giving it a market cap of about $2.2-billion. The stock is up 485% since the company went public at the end of 2011.

AutoZone (AZO) moved more than 2% higher after releasing earnings ahead of the opening bell. Profits were $10.42 a share beating estimates by 8-cents. Keep in mind AutoZone has a share price above $400. Revenues were $3.1-billion for the quarter. Overall sales were up 5.6% from a year ago. Same stores sales were up about 1%.

There were more ripple effects today from Carnival's (CCL) quarterly report. The stock fell another 5% on top of yesterday's loss of 7.7%. The cruise company's earnings were essentially in line with estimates. However, the numbers were down 30% from a year ago, largely on a series of highly publicized disasters and mishaps at sea.