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Stocks Mostly Higher After Sentiment Data

Jeremy Glaser

U.S. Market
Stocks pared early losses to move mostly higher at midday.

Consumer sentiment was steady in early February according to the Reuters/University of Michigan survey. The reading of 81.2 was ahead of analyst expectations. One-year inflation expectations were 3.3%, up from 3.1% in January.

Import prices rose 0.1% last month from December levels. Economists had expected a decline of 0.2%. A 1.2% decline in oil prices in the month helped offset a 0.3% increase in all other non-fuel goods. Prices were down 1.5% from January 2013 levels.

At midday the Dow was up 0.5%, the S&P 500 was 0.2% higher while the Nasdaq was off 0.2%.

Stocks on the Move
Jos. A. Bank (JOSB) is planning on acquiring Eddie Bauer for $825 million in cash and stock from private-equity firm Golden Gate Capital. The move comes after Jos. A. Bank had previously tried to buy rival Men’s Wearhouse (MW) and rebuffed a subsequent move by Men’s Wearhouse to buy Jos. A. Bank. At midday, Jos. A Bank shares were up less than 1% while Men’s Wearhouse shares fell nearly 5%.

Kraft’s (KRFT) fourth quarter results, reported late Thursday, showed signs of improvement as the company’s organic net revenues climbed 3.2% in the quarter driven by volume gains and improving mix; for the full year the firm’s organic sales matched last year’s figure. For the year, the company’s adjusted EPS was down slightly versus the prior year as higher interest expense more than offset 5% growth of operating margins. Kraft shares were up 0.2% at midday.

AIG (AIG) posted fourth-quarter net income after-the-bell Thursday of $1.34 a share up from a loss of $2.68 a share in the final quarter of 2012. The company also said it is increasing its dividend by 25% to 12.5 cents a share and they are planning to reduce the size of its workforce by 3%. Shaers were down 2.2% on the news.

Foreign Markets
European shares were mostly higher. In late trading, the FTSE 100 was down 0.1% while the Paris CAC and Germany’s DAX were up 0.4% and 0.5% respectively.

Asian markets were mixed on the day. The Shanghai Composite was up 0.8%, the Hang Seng rose 0.6% while the Nikkei 225 dropped 1.5%.