On The Fly: Top stock stories at midday

Stocks opened little changed but have improved a bit throughout the morning. Bond yields are just below their highs, but have been rising, as have been oil prices, which are now trading right near the $71 a barrel mark. ECONOMIC EVENTS: In the U.S., housing starts fell 3.7% to a 1.287M rate in April, which was a steeper decline than expected. A lack of supply is constraining the housing market. Building permits declined 1.8% last month to a 1.352M pace, which was roughly in-line with estimates. Industrial production increased 0.7% in April with capacity at 78.0%, which was better than expected. COMPANY NEWS: Shares of Macy's (M) advanced over 10% after the department store owner reported better than expected first quarter sales and profits and raised its outlook for the year. The report provided relief not just for Macy's shares, but for a number of its peers, including J.C. Penney (JCP) and Nordstrom (JWN), both of which are scheduled to issue their own earnings reports tomorrow, and Kohl's (KSS), which reports next week... Shares of Abaxis (ABAX), a maker of diagnostic instruments for veterinary point-of-care services, have jumped 16% to $83.05 after announcing an agreement to be bought by Zoetis (ZTS) for approximately $2B, or $83 per share in cash. Zoetis shares have slipped 0.5% following the deal announcement. MAJOR MOVERS: Among the noteworthy gainers was Enphase Energy (ENPH), which rose 10% after H.C. Wainwright initiated coverage of the stock with a Buy rating. Also higher were Boot Barn (BOOT) and Sea Limited (SE), which gained a respective 17% and 11% after reporting quarterly results. Among the notable losers was Overstock.com (OSTK), which slipped 4% after Soros Fund Management disclosed in a filing that it had exited its position in the stock during the first quarter. Also lower was Avnet (AVT), which fell 3% after Goldman Sachs downgraded the stock to Sell from Neutral, citing cycle risk, margin pressure, and its valuation relative to peers. INDEXES: Near midday, the Dow was up 38.79, or 0.16%, to 24,745.20, the Nasdaq was up 45.38, or 0.62%, to 7,397.01, and the S&P 500 was up 10.58, or 0.39%, to 2,722.03.

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