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Stocks Struggle to Hold Gains After Fed Minutes

Dan Berman
Hot Stock Minute

Stocks struggled today after a four-day streak of healthy gains. The Dow and S&P 500 ended the day flat, while the Nasdaq rose 0.5%. Stocks briefly spiked after the release of the FOMC minutes. The details from the June meeting showed Federal Reserve policymakers were relatively upbeat about the economy and about half of them believe asset purchases should begin to be scaled back by year-end. Investors were also digesting a dismal data report out of China. It showed the country's exports falling by 3.1% in June when expectations had been for a rise of nearly 4%. The report sent stocks higher in China where there were new hopes of central bank intervention.

Family Dollar (FDO) rose 7% today after edging past estimates with its quarterly earnings. The company says it made $1.05 a share, 2-cents above expectations. Revenue was right in line with the consensus at $2.57 billion, rising 9% over last year. Family Dollar says its market share is increasing. The company did warn however that its customers are being forced to make spending choices. At this point, the chain is focusing on improving profit margins. Prior to this morning, Family Dollar stock was down fractionally since the start of 2013.

Nu Skin (NUS) jumped 19% after the company increased its outlook for the quarter, now estimating revenue will be $680 million. That's at least $100 million more than it said before. Earnings are also expected to be nearly 1/3 higher than previously predicted at $1.20 per share. Even before today's climb, shares of Nu Skin were up 79% year-to-date.

Open Table (OPEN) fell over 1% after Citigroup initiated coverage of the online reservation service after hours yesterday with a sell rating. Citi says the stock is overvalued and has probably penetrated most of its targets markets since overseas expansion appears limited. The stock is up 32% so far this year, but is still far below its all time high of about $115 a share a little more than two years ago. It's currently valued at $1.5 billion.

Apple (AAPL) was unmoved by an unfavorable decision in its e-book price-fixing case. A federal judge has ruled that Apple did in fact conspire to raise the price of e-books and therefore ordered a trial on damages. The Department of Justice and 33 states accuse Apple of working with five large book publishers to determine the price of books for the iPad. Apple has denied the charges and argued unsuccessfully that it is unfair not to implicate Amazon (AMZN) and Google (GOOG), which it says entered into similar agreements with publishers.

Streaming music service Pandora (P) plummeted another 8% after falling 4% yesterday. The drop began when Pandora reported that its subscribers spent less time listening to the service last month than they did in May. It should be noted however that Pandora has limited its own growth on this measure. Back in February it capped free listening on mobile devices to 40 hours a month as a way to limit royalty costs and convert more listeners into subscribers.