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After a strong day yesterday, stocks gave back much of their gains this morning. Investors took Germany's announcement of 3% GDP growth in 2011 with a grain of salt, as the first part of the year was by far the strongest as European debt woes have slowed the Continent's biggest economy in more recent months. Just after 11:30 a.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) were down 45 points to 12,417, while the S&P 500 fell three points to 1,289.
Gold prices continued their recent rise, hitting a four-week high above $1,640 per ounce. More than 100,000 kilos of gold purchases from China helped boost the yellow metal.
Looking at Dow stocks, Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO ) was the biggest loser, down about 2.3% to $67.73. The stock suffered a downgrade from analyst UBS, which said that the soft drink giant would face greater foreign-exchange pressure from a rising dollar and slower growth in sales volumes. It also cited a fairly high valuation in reducing its price target on the stock from $73 to $70. But the comments seem directed at the industry as a whole rather than Coke specifically, as the firm also downgraded PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP ) for most of the same reasons. Pepsi shares fell about 2%.
Disney (NYSE: DIS ) also struggled, falling 1.8% to $38.91. Ratings for the college football championship game, which aired on its ESPN unit, were down from last year and at the lowest levels since 2005. With content producers in the limelight as the streaming video industry continues to evolve amid huge competition, Disney is arguably in the catbird seat with its rich library of valuable programming.
On the upside, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) again topped the advancers list, jumping more than 2% to $6.79. Despite falling bonuses on Wall Street and fears about the coming earnings season, B of A is bouncing strongly from its huge declines in 2011. The bank also submitted its annual stress tests to the Fed earlier this week. Results won't come out until March, but the tests highlight the perception of how fragile the banking system is right now.
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