As news out of Ukraine seemed to drift to the periphery, stocks edged lower today on trade data from China, though U.S. equities mostly weathered the storm thanks in part to M&A news. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) finished the day down 34 points, or 0.2%, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq both dropped less than 0.1%.
The world's No. 2 economy said exports fell unexpectedly in February, declining by 18.1% against analyst expectations of a 6.8% rise. It was enough to push the Hong Kong-based Hang Seng down 1.8%, and put pressure on commodities as China is seen as the world's manufacturer, and thus the biggest consumer of raw materials. There were no economic reports released in the U.S., but investors cheered an all-stock merger announcement between Chiquita Brands and Ireland-based Fyffes, which will create the world's largest banana company. Chiquita share finished up 11%, while Fyffes jumped a whopping 52% as the two groups of shareholders will split ownership of the new company nearly evenly.
Among stocks making news today was Boeing (NYSE: BA ) , which was down near 3% most of the day and finished down 1.3% after the company reported new production issues with its 787 Dreamliner jet. This time, the manufacturer said it had found hairline cracks in the wings of 43 planes. The problems is just the latest in a long series of mechanical flaws, the most serious of which have been battery fires on aircraft that were already deployed. The hairline cracks were found on planes that were still in production, however. Separately, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 jet went missing on Saturday and has not been found, though that jet is considered one of the safest in use.
Elsewhere, Urban Outfitters (NASDAQ: URBN ) shares were sliding after hours, down 2% after its earnings report came out. The clothing retailer actually beat earnings estimates, posting a per-share profit of $0.59 against expectations of $0.55. Revenues, meanwhile, grew 5.7% to $905.9 million, in line with its earnings pre-announcement, but below the old analyst consensus at $925.7 million. Same-store sales, which include e-commerce, increased 1%, but fell 9% at namesake Urban Outfitters stores. Comps were stronger at Free People and Anthropologie, moving up 20% and 10%, respectively. Considering the struggles that retailers faced over the holiday season, especially teen apparel vendors, this was not such a shabby report as profits improved to a new record alongside revenue. The company did not provide guidance for the current year, but CEO sounded optimistic, saying, "customer reaction to the new spring fashion offerings at our Anthropologie and Free People brands have been strong," but was cautious on the business overall because of "challenges" at Urban Outfitters stores.
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