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U.S. stocks were fairly stagnant today, with the three major indices closing slightly lower and wrapping up the four-day trading week essentially on par with where it began.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 0.19%, or 30 points, at 16,103 points; the S&P 500 closed down 0.21%, or 4 points, at 1,836; and the Nasdaq closed down 0.11%, or 5 points, at 4,263 points.
Stocks are dampened in part by a lackluster housing sales report from the National Association of Realtors that revealed home sales fell 5.1% in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million. Analysts had expected a rate of 4.65 million, according to a MarketWatch poll.
As stocks foundered, crude oil and heating futures sank, although natural gas marked a very strong rally as they closed up 18% for the week.
Natural gas settled up 1.2% today at $6.13 per million British thermal units as demand has soared as investors worry about supplies given the recent bout of unusually cold weather.
But light, sweet crude oil for April delivery fell 0.5%, or $0.55, to $102.20 per barrel, and heating oil fell 1.44% to $3.04 per gallon.
Meanwhile, metals futures, a traditionally safe-haven investment, rallied as the crisis in Ukraine intensified this week, with gold for April delivery closing up 0.5%, or $6.70, to $1,323.60 per ounce. Silver for March delivery closed up about $0.10 to $21.78 per ounce.
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Today's Stock Market Winners: Barnes & Noble, Isis Pharma
Among the stocks reaping gains today, Barnes & Noble Inc. (NYSE: BKS) traded up more than 6% after spiking late in Friday's session after G Asset Management said it proposed to buy 51% of the company, which it valued now at $22 per share, up from the $20 it offered in November.
The private investment management company said it also wanted to buy 51% of Nook, which it valued at $5 per share. BKS hit a session high of $19.19, trading in a 52-week range of $12.59 to $23.71.
And, Isis Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: ISIS) was up 15%, marking an all-time high at $61.30, after it reported positive results from a study of its treatment for spinal muscular atrophy in children. Isis said the drug was tolerated well at all dose levels.
Today's Market Losers: Groupon, Cabot Oil & Gas
Several companies lost ground today after their earnings. Among them, Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. (NYSE: COG) was down more than 8% in Friday's session.
Cabot Oil & Gas reported fourth-quarter earnings and revenue that beat the Street estimate, but the company also said it has not been able to take advantage of the soaring natural gas prices.
Cabot reported earnings of $0.18 per share, up from $0.10 per share and topping the Street view of $0.17 per share. Revenue was up 32% year over year to $487.5 million, topping the analyst view by $15.12 million.
And, Groupon (Nasdaq: GRPN) shares plunged more than 20% today after it presented disappointing earnings guidance.
Groupon expects first-quarter's per-share loss to be $0.04 to $0.02, whereas the Street expected earnings in positive territory at $0.06 per share.
Finally, MRC Global Inc. (NYSE: MRC) shares fell about 14% today after the pipe and valve distributor reported fourth-quarter earnings that missed estimates.
MRC reported earnings of $0.23 per share and sales of $1.34 billion, versus the Street estimate of $0.41 per share. Revenues were in line with the consensus.
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