Rob Black's Market Roundup

by: Rob Black

Inflation fears pushed stocks modestly lower Tuesday as a surge in wholesale prices obscured data showing signs of a moderating economic growth.

Wholesale prices in the U.S. rose in April, led by higher gasoline and crude oil costs, according to a survey of economists before a government report yesterday.

Builders in the U.S. broke ground on the fewest homes in 17 months and a measure of producer prices rose less than expected, pointing to slower growth and contained inflation.

Regulators declined to approve a new sleeping pill developed by Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and Neurocrine Biosciences (NASDAQ:NBIX) amid increased scrutiny of insomnia treatments. Neurocrine's shares lost more than half their value. The delay follows reports of people allegedly driving and binge eating in their sleep after taking Sanofi-Aventis's (NYSE:SNY) insomnia drug Ambien. U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy, blamed a traffic accident he was involved in this month on taking Ambien along with a nausea drug.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), the world's No. 2 personal-computer seller, said profit rose 51 percent as the company took orders from Dell (DELL). Earnings this quarter may top analysts' estimates, sending the shares higher.

Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), the world's biggest retailer, said profit rose 6.3 percent, exceeding analyst estimates, on the biggest sales gain in two years. Wal-Mart said higher gasoline and utility prices could hurt results in the current quarter. While Wal-Mart's lower-income customers could trim their spending with rising energy prices, the retailer may benefit if consumers limit shopping trips to conserve.

MasterCard is scheduled to go public in what should be the richest IPO on Wall Street in two years. This will let you the average joe become an owner in credit cards. Be careful as MasterCard and Visa are besieged as they face hungry competitors, antitrust suits and legal battles over fees they charge retailers.

Home Depot (NYSE:HD), the world's largest home-improvement retailer, said profit rose 19 percent on sales of appliances and professional building supplies.

Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS), the world's largest office-supply company, said profit rose +26% after business customers stepped up demand for printing services and office equipment.

Deere (NYSE:DE), the world's No. 1 maker of tractors, combines and harvesters, said profit rose more than analysts expected on rising construction equipment revenue and a gain from the sale of a unit.