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The Markets Now: eBay Maintains Gains While Amazon Stays in the Red

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Plus, Merck's diabetes drug may cause precancerous conditions in the pancreas.

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Stocks have remained higher today as the Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) increased 0.43% to 14,517.75, eyeing its tenth day of setting a record high. The S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) climbed 0.42% to 1,560.99, and the Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) rose 0.34% to 3,256.16. For the week ended March 9, initial unemployment claims dropped 10,000 to 332,000. Today's number is the second lowest of the recovery, and the four-week average sits at its lowest level of the recovery at 346,750. Continuing claims dropped 89,000 to a recovery low of 3.024 million.

In February, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the producer price index, or PPI, increased 0.7% month-over-month. Food prices declined 0.5% last month after increasing 0.7% in January. Fuel prices jumped 3% in February with gasoline prices spiking 7.2%. The core PPI, which excludes food and energy prices, climbed 0.2%.

The nation's current account deficit for the fourth quarter of last year totaled $110.4 billion versus $112.5 billion in the previous quarter. Investment income helped lessen the deficit. The current account measures the United States' trade balance in goods, services, and unilateral transfers on a quarterly basis.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index increased from -32.4 to -31.6 last week. The index has gained for six straight weeks and nears its five-year high. The index's scale ranges from -100 to 100 and measures the views of randomly surveyed Americans on the US economy, their personal finance, and their willingness to buy products. Of the participants, 51% said they viewed their personal finances more positively, 31% said it is a good time to buy necessities, and 21% held a positive view of the economy.

Gallup reported that 57% of individuals in the US responded with an economic issue when asked what is US's largest problem today. This reading is the lowest since June 2010, and the reading has not fallen below 55% since December 2009.

Storage of natural gas decreased 145 billion cubic feet last week to 1,983 billion cubic feet.

eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) jumped 3.29% to $52.66 after several analysts stated that the company had been oversold. Mastercard (NYSE:MA) announced yesterday that it would charge a fee when involved in a PayPal transaction. Evercore Partners analyst Ken Sena lifted his eBay rating to overweight from equal weight, calling the recent selling over the Mastercard charges "overdone." Piper Jaffray also believes investors overreacted to the news about Mastercard, saying that eBay's 2013 guidance already accounts for the fees. The firm maintains an overweight rating with a $63 price target. JPMorgan analyst Doug Anmuth also views the stock as oversold, leaving his rating at overweight with a $56 price target.

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) dropped 2.34% to $268.67. Doug Anmuth of JPMorgan cut Amazon from overweight to neutral, anticipating a slower rate of ecommerce market share gains.

Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) shares fell 1.08% to $44.11. The US Food and Drug Administration announced it is currently studying whether or not widely used diabetes drugs, including Merck's Januvia, causes inflammation of the pancreas and pre-cancer in the pancreas.

Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE:CLF) continues its fall for the second day after it announced it will idle its Wabush Pointe Noire pellet plant in Sept-Iles, Canada. Shares of the iron ore miner fell 3.96% to $21.83.

Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK) climbed 2.73% to $21.98 on higher natural gas prices.

Twitter: @ChrisWitrak
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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