Wednesday’s Mid-Day Movers: 3 Stories Driving Markets

After racing for early gains, the markets seemed to have run out of steam by early afternoon on Wednesday. President Barack Obama outlined several initiatives in his State of the Union address aimed at revitalizing America’s struggling economic recovery, but some of his ideas aren’t sitting well with investors.

At 12:50 p.m.: DJIA: -0.31%, S&P 500: -0.02%, NASDAQ: +0.22%.

Here are three stories affecting the markets on Wednesday afternoon:

1) For the first time since 2009, mobile phone sales are are on the decline. Research firm Gartner reported on Wednesday that total mobile phone shipments, which include both smartphones and the increasingly archaic standard cellphone, fell 1.7 percent in 2012. To be clear, while the total volume of combined sales fell, smartphone sales as a separate category continued to climb, accounting for more than half of total mobile phone sales.

The Gartner report also examines the sales figures for the world’s top smartphone manufacturers, revealing what companies are growing the fastest into the massive market… (Read more.)

2) Manufacturers’ inventories and trade inventories grew just 0.1 percent in December, according to a U.S. Department of Commerce report released on Wednesday. December’s end-of-month inventory level of $1.62 trillion missed the 0.3 percent increase expected by analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, and it was below the 0.2 percent gain made in November.

While December’s business inventory growth missed analysts’ expectations, it was pretty much in line with the prediction made by the United States government in its advance estimate of fourth-quarter gross domestic product published last month… (Read more.)

3) The Department of Commerce reported its advance estimate of U.S. retail and food services sales for January, and the news was both unsurprising and underwhelming. Adjusted for seasonal variation but not price changes, total sales were $416.6 billion, a 0.1 percent increase from December and a 4.4 percent increase from January of 2011.

Over the past 12 months, retails sales have increased an unadjusted 4.4 percent, just over twice the rate of consumer inflation. This rate of growth is a decent proxy for the general economic health, as consumer spending accounts for up to 70 percent of economic activity, and retail sales account for about 30 percent of total consumer spending… (Read more.)

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