U.S. shares erased earlier gains as the European Union agreed to curb state-owned Russian banks’ access to capital markets and restrict export of oil-production equipment to the nation. The S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) inched down 0.1 percent at 11:24 a.m. in New York. The 30-company Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) ros less than 0.1 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) gained 0.2 percent. Most followed shares included Merck, Pfizer, Herbalife, Reynolds American, Windstream Holdings, Martha Stewart, United Parcel Service, Marsh & McLennan, International Paper, and Masco.
In health-care shares, Merck & Co Inc. (NYSE:MRK), the second-largest U.S. drugmaker, edged up 1.5 percent to $58.81 after posting better-than-expected quarterly results. Net income jumped to $2.03 billion, or 68 cents per share, in the second quarter. That compared with $906 million, or 30 cents per share, in the year-earlier period, White House Station, New Jersey-based company said in a statement today. Excluding special items, Merck earned 85 cents per share. Analysts, on average, expected 81 cents.
Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE), the biggest U.S. drugmaker, edged up 0.2 percent to $30.17. Pfizer earned 58 cents per share for the second quarter, excluding certain items, beating forecasts by one cent. Revenue was above Street forecasts.
In consumer-staples shares, Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF), the nutrition company that hedge fund manager Bill Ackman has accused of being a pyramid scheme, tumbled 12 percent to $59.57. Excluding some items, the nutrition company posted earnings of $1.55 a share, missing analysts’ estimates by 2 cents. The company also said sales this year will grow by 8.5 percent to 10.5 percent, slower than the range of 10 percent to 12 percent it predicted in April.
Reynolds American Inc. (NYSE:RAI), which agreed this month to buy U.S. rival Lorillard Inc. (NYSE:LO), added 1.1 percent to $61.28. The company's second-quarter profit climbed 6.7 percent as higher cigarette and moist-snuff pricing helped offset lower cigarette volume. The company boosted the lower end of its full-year adjusted per-share earnings outlook.
In communications, Windstream Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ:WIN), a provider of voice and data network communications, surged 18 percent to $12.47 after announcing plans to spin off certain assets into a publicly traded real estate investment trust. The company will spin off its fiber and copper networks, as well as other real estate, as a REIT, which will lease use of the assets to Windstream with an initial estimated rent payment of $650 million per year.
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. (NYSE:MSO) rose 3.2 percent to $4.58 after swinging to a second-quarter profit as the company managed to cut expenses, masking continued revenue declines.
In other stocks, United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE:UPS), the world’s biggest package shipping company, slipped 3.3 percent to $99.27 after cutting its full-year forecast in the wake of reporting earnings of $1.21 a share for the quarter, below forecasts for $1.25 a share.
Marsh & McLennan Cos. (NYSE:MMC), the biggest insurance broker by market value, rose 1.6 percent to $51.98. The company said its second-quarter profit rose 11 percent as it experienced revenue growth in its insurance and consulting operations.
International Paper Co. (NYSE:IP), a paper company, inched down 1 percent to $49.49 after saying its second-quarter profit fell as it recorded restructuring charges and a drop in revenue. However, operating earnings improved.
Masco Corp. (NYSE:MAS), a maker of faucets and kitchen cabinets, jumped 10.1 percent to $22.33 after reporting earnings that topped analysts’ projections. Masco reported second-quarter profit of 32 cents a share, above the 28-cent projection by analysts.