* EPL Oil to be acquired by Energy XXI for $2.3 bln
* Herbalife shares tumble on FTC investigation
* Dow off 0.28 pct, S&P down 0.2 pct, Nasdaq up 0.11 pct
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, March 12 U.S. stocks were little
changed on Wednesday, as equities recouped much of their earlier
declines amid signs of progress in diplomatic attempts to ease
tensions in Ukraine.
Stocks were pressured by concerns about a weakening economy
in China. London copper prices, seen as a proxy for
economic health due to its broad industrial use, rebounded after
hitting their lowest level since July 2010.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet his Russian
counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in London on Friday ahead of a
Sunday referendum on whether Ukraine's Crimean peninsula will
join Russia or go independent. The legality of the referendum is
Spot gold hit a six-month high on its safe-haven
However, money is on the sidelines and investors worried
about missing another leg-up in the five-year U.S. equity bull
market are keeping indexes near recent highs, analysts say.
"The situation in Ukraine and a slowing China are going to
matter but they haven't mattered yet. Commodity prices are
falling and that is tied to demand," said Kim Forrest, senior
equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in
"People think they missed out and the market is going to do
the same it did last year," she said. "There's more retail money
flowing into the system, supporting stocks."
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 46.06 points or
0.28 percent, to 16,305.19, the S&P 500 lost 3.81 points
or 0.2 percent, to 1,863.82 and the Nasdaq Composite
added 4.604 points or 0.11 percent, to 4,311.792.
Geopolitical developments have moved to the forefront this
week on a vacuum of major corporate results and market-driving
economic data. The S&P 500 closed at a record high last Friday.
"We've climbed so far, to continue to climb is definitely
going to be a see-saw move," said Rick Meckler, president of
LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Herbalife fell 7.5 percent to $60.50 after the
company said the U.S. Federal Trade Commission had opened an
inquiry into its operations. Shares briefly fell as much as 16
Shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
fell sharply on Wednesday, a day after leaders of the Senate
Banking Committee announced an agreement on legislation to wind
down the government-owned mortgage financiers. Fannie lost 9.9
percent to $3.63 and Freddie fell 15.8 percent to $3.40.
EPL Oil & Gas Inc jumped 29.8 percent to $37.79
after the company agreed to be acquired by larger rival Energy
XXI Ltd for $2.3 billion including debt. Energy XXI
shares lost 6.4 percent to $21.88.
Express Inc dropped 12.8 percent to $15.91 after
the apparel retailer reported fourth-quarter earnings and
forecast a profit for the current quarter that fell far short of
Oxigene Inc surged 71.5 percent to $4.15. The
company said its experimental drug Zybrestat, combined with
Roche's cancer drug Avastin, significantly slowed
progression of recurrent ovarian cancer better than Avastin
alone in a mid-stage clinical trial.
Geron Corp plunged 61.8 percent to $1.68. The
company said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered a
halt to trials of a cancer drug over concerns about potential