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Stocks Pare Early Gains, Mostly Lower

Kevin O'Shaughnessy

U.S. Market
Stocks rose at open but gradually fell during morning trading and were mostly lower at midday.

Economic news flow was slow in the United States, but the Senate is expected to vote this afternoon to extend the U.S. debt limit. The House passed the bill yesterday.

Several reports from overseas resonated with the markets.

The Bank of England revised its growth forecast for the current year, now expecting its economy to expand by 3.4% in 2014 compared with its previous outlook of 2.8%. The central bank also expects forthcoming employment data to reveal a U.K. unemployment-rate decline to 7% for January, which would be more than two years earlier than the expected rate level at which BOE officials would raise interest rates.

Meanwhile, Germany's government also revised its 2014 growth forecast upward, with expectations now for a 1.8% expansion.

Separately, China reported that its trade surplus widened last month, with export levels rising by 10.6%, well higher than the Wall Street forecast of 2.0% or lower. Although the data could indicate strength for Chinese export-driven companies, Wall Street is skeptical that the numbers could be skewed.

The Dow and the S&P 500 were 0.3% and 0.1% lower at midday, while the Nasdaq was flat.

Stocks on the Move
Deere (DE) posted a first-quarter profit of $681.1 million, up from $649.7 million the same time last year. Revenue increased by 3%, and earnings per share and total sales exceeded Street expectations. Revenue in the core farm machinery segment ticked up 2% year over year, and the construction division enjoyed 4% growth. The combined 2.5% sales increase was ahead of the company's forecast 2% decline, but Morningstar analysts believe the difference was a timing issue rather than an indication that the agriculture market has taken a step upward. Shares were 0.4% lower at midday.

Foreign Markets
Stocks in Asia were up, with the Shanghai Composite rising 0.3% and the Hang Seng gaining 1.5%. The Nikkei 225 was up 0.6%.

In Europe, the Paris CAC and the DAX were 0.5% and 0.7% higher, while the FTSE 100 was flat.