U.S. stocks little changed as investors assess economy, profits

Fed Stimulus

Three rounds of monetary stimulus from the Federal Reserve have helped push the S&P 500 higher by 172% from a 12- year low in 2009. The Fed, which next meets Jan. 28-29, last month announced a reduction in its monthly bond-buying program, citing a recovery in the labor market.

The S&P 500 increased on Jan. 10 after a report from the Labor Department showed employment rose in December at the slowest pace in almost three years, easing concern the Fed will accelerate the pace of stimulus cuts. The data ended months of improving job growth that had signaled the world’s largest economy was picking up.

Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart is scheduled to speak today. Charles Plosser from the Philadelphia Fed and Richard Fisher from Dallas speak tomorrow. Plosser and Fisher are voting members of the Federal Open Market Committee this year.

Volatility Index

The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, which measures expected swings on the S&P 500 using options prices, fell 1.5% to 11.96. The gauge fell 12% last week to its lowest level since Aug. 5.

Lululemon slumped 17% to $49.70 today after projecting earnings for the period ending Feb. 2 of 71 cents to 73 cents a share, down from a previous range of 78 cents to 80 cents. The yoga-wear retailer estimated that sales for the period will reach $513 million to $518 million. The company had predicted sales of at least $535 million.

Symantec Drops

Symantec fell 2.5% to $22.88 after Morgan Stanley lowered its rating on the stock to underweight from equal weight. The brokerage predicted that revenue would rebound more slowly as Symantec reorganizes its sales force, potentially limiting its profitability.

Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc. plunged 17% to $369 after the stock soared more than sixfold last week. Intercept Chief Executive Officer Mark Pruzanski said the company may consider working with a bigger drugmaker to develop its experimental treatment.

Beam jumped 24% to $83.07. Osaka-based Suntory will pay $83.50 per share in cash and take over all of Beam’s outstanding debt, according to a joint statement. The companies said they expect to complete the deal by the end of June.

Juniper Networks climbed 9% to $25.65. The company has been targeted by Elliott Management, a New York fund run by billionaire Paul Singer, which will seek cost cuts, stock buybacks and other changes, two people familiar with the matter said. Elliott is seeking talks with management and the company’s board, the people said.

Twitter Inc. rose 3.9% to $59.20. Goldman Sachs & Co. analyst Heath Terry raised the stock’s 12-month price target to $65 a share from $46, citing the social-network company’s “significant acceleration” in innovation during the fourth quarter. Twitter has seen five trading sessions of declines, falling 17% last week.

MGM Resorts International increased 2.3% to $25.93 as Bank of America Corp. upgraded the company to buy from neutral. The stock posted its best week in eight months last week, completing its longest streak of weekly gains since February 2012.

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