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Brief up-to-the-minute market updates

EBay founder Omidyar to leave PayPal board

EBay Inc. founder Pierre Omidyar on Monday informed PayPal Holdings Inc. he won't stand for re-election to the payment company's board, PayPal said in a filing Friday. Omidyar's term expires at the company's shareholder meeting later this year. Omidyar's decision "was not a result of any disagreement with the company," PayPal said. PayPal, spun off from eBay in 2015, held last year's annual meeting in May and so far does not appear to have scheduled its 2017 meeting. Shares of the company were flat in late trading after ending the regular session down less than 0.1%.

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S&P 500 and Dow finish lower as Republicans withdraw health-care bill

U.S. stocks ended mostly lower on Friday as House Republicans withdrew the American Health Care Act after determining that they did not have enough votes to pass the bill. The withdrawal is a major setback for President Donald Trump who had made the repeal and the replacement of the existing Affordable Care Act one of his main campaign pledges. The S&P 500 dropped 1 point to close at 2,344, down 1.4% for the week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 57 points, or 0.3%, to end at 20,599 for a weekly decline of 1.5%. The Nasdaq Composite bucked the trend to rise 11 points, or 0.2%, to close at 5,828 but finished out the week 1.2% lower.

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Wall Street 'fear gauge' touches highest level since November amid drama over health-care bill

A popular measure of implied volatility on Friday hit its highest level since November, as the likelihood of a key health-care vote came into question. The CBOE Volatility Index, also known as the VIX , , jumped nearly 7% to 14.16 on Friday, pushing it above its 200-day moving average of 13.54 for the first time since December. The spike in the VIX caps six consecutive days of advances in the gauge. The VIX measures market expectations for volatility over the next 30 days. The rise in the "fear gauge" comes as stocks faced choppy afternoon trade, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling by as much as 100 points before recovering some of those losses later. The blue-chip gauge is off 0.1% at 20,635, the S&P 500 is down 0.1% at 2,348, while the Nasdaq Composite Index , bucking the trend, was up 0.4% at 5,842.

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Ryan to hold news conference at 4 p.m. Eastern

House Speaker Paul Ryan will hold a news conference at 4 p.m. Eastern, his office announced. The event comes as Republicans were planning to vote on their health-care bill Friday afternoon and reports said the bill has been pulled.

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Oil prices gain for the session, but fall for the week

Oil prices settled higher on Friday, as traders waited to hear the outcome of a meeting Sunday of major crude producers to discuss compliance with the output cut deal that was implemented at the start of the year. For the week, however, prices still lost roughly 1.7% as growing U.S. production threatened to offset the impact of the global output cuts. May West Texas Intermediate crude rose 27 cents, or 0.6%, to settle at $47.97 a barrel.

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Gold futures tally a weekly gain of roughly 1.5%

Gold futures settled higher on Friday to tally a weekly gain of about 1.5%, with uncertainty offering prices a boost ahead of a vote on the U.S. health care bill set for later in the day. The yellow metal also found support as U.S. equities and the dollar looked ready to end the week lower. April gold rose $1.30, or 0.1%, to settle at $1,248.50 an ounce.

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Trump, Ryan discussing 'way forward' as health vote still in flux

President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan were still meeting at the White House early Friday afternoon to discuss the "way forward" on the Republican health-care bill, press secretary Sean Spicer said. Spicer said a vote was still planned for Friday afternoon. But at least one report said Ryan would tell Trump they did not have the votes.

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Baker Hughes data show a sizeable weekly climb in U.S. oil-rig count

Data from Baker Hughes Friday revealed that the number of active U.S. rigs drilling for oil rose by 21 to 652 rigs this week. The oil rig count has climbed every week this year so far, except for one. The total active U.S. rig count, which includes oil and natural-gas rigs, also jumped higher by 20 to 809, according to Baker Hughes. May West Texas Intermediate crude was up 9 cents, or 0.2%, at $47.79 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange for the session, trading near the $47.81 it traded at before the data.

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Speaker Ryan going to White House ahead of planned health vote

House Speaker Paul Ryan is heading to the White House Friday afternoon to meet with President Donald Trump about the planned vote on the American Health Care Act, reports say. Ryan and Trump have been furiously trying to round up support for the bill. A number of House conservatives have come out against it however and the vote is expected to be extremely close. Ryan's briefing Trump could be a sign that they don't yet have the required amount of votes.

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Microsoft, IBM stocks' brief premarket plunges were 'correct' trades--FINRA spokesperson

The one-off trades that briefly sent Microsoft Corp.'s stock tumbling 12% in premarket trade Friday, and International Business Machine Corp.'s stock plunging 11%, were "correct" trades and will not be erased, a FINRA spokesperson told MarketWatch. The trades were made via the FINRA/Nasdaq Trade Reporting Facility (TRF). "They were both premarket, and both odd lots, and therefore don't need to be within the National Best Bid and Offer [requirement]," a FINRA spokesperson told MarketWatch. The NBBO is the Securities and Exchange Commission rule that requires brokers to guarantee the best available ask or bid price when the execute trades for customers, according to Nasdaq. In other words, someone is just out of luck, and someone else is feeling very lucky.

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Skechers shares upgraded on international wholesale growth

Skechers USA Inc. was upgraded to outperform from market perform at Cowen & Company on the footwear brand's global growth in the wholesale channel, which analysts think will increase margins and drive earnings and free cash flow expansion. Skechers' stock price target was raised to $35 from $26. Skechers is the second largest footwear brand in North America behind Nike Inc. , analysts wrote in a Friday note, with particular appeal to the mid-tier and mass markets that are "underserved by competitors." Cowen analysts estimate that its international business will overtake the domestic business in the next two years. "Skechers is transitioning to an international wholesale-driven model, led by distributor-owned and franchise stores, its Asia joint venture, and distribute franchise stores," the note said. "International wholesale generates higher gross and operating margin than other channels." Skechers shares are up 2.4% in Friday trading, but down 7% for the past year. The S&P 500 index is up 15.5% for the last 12 months.

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U.S. regulators press four foreign banks to improve living wills

U.S. financial regulators on Friday pressed four foreign banks to improve their living wills. Barclays PLC , Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and UBS AG were each given until July 2018 to improve their resolution plans, which are intended to map out a strategy so their U.S. operations could be closed under bankruptcy law without taxpayer assistance in the event of an unexpected crisis. At the same time, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said livings wills presented by 16 large U.S. banks would be functional. Only Northern Trust Corp.'s living will had shortcomings that must be addressed in this year's plan due on Dec. 31.

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Alteryx prices at top of range to raise $126 million

Alteryx, Inc. , a provider of self-service data, priced its offering late Thursday at $14, the top of its range, to raise $126 million in its initial public offering. The company sold 9 million shares and the company has granted underwriters the option to buy up to 1.35 million additional shares. Shares are expected to start trading Friday on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "AYX." Goldman, Sachs & Co and J.P. Morgan Securities were the lead underwriters on the offering.

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U.S. stocks open slightly higher, but on track for worst week since November

U.S. stocks opened slightly higher on Friday, with the Dow rebounding after six straight daily losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.2% to 20,696. The S&P 500 added 0.2% to 2,350. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 0.4% to 5,840. Despite the rise on the day, major indexes were on track for their worst weekly performance since November. Investors continued to watch the situation in Washington, where a postponed vote on a key health-care bill is scheduled to take place. Market participants are watching the outcome largely for clues to the fate of other elements of President Donald Trump's agenda, including corporate tax cuts. Health-care stocks could be volatile as details emerge on the likelihood of its passage; the sector opened with a gain of 0.1%. Among the day's biggest movers, Micron Technology Inc. jumped 12% a day after giving a strong outlook.

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Apple downgraded at Needham, but remains top stock pick

Analysts at Needham downgraded shares of Apple Inc. as the company comes within 6% of their target price. Lead analyst Laura Martin cut her rating to buy from strong buy on Friday, but said the stock remains her top pick. Martin sees Apple's recurring revenue stream and average user churn as a boon, as well as the company's pure play in mobile products and relatively inexpensive price compared to major content companies. "Despite the fact that Apple's profit metrics are higher than world class content companies such as Disney and CBS, and its asset efficiency is higher than world class internet companies like Facebook and Expedia, Apple's valuation is dramatically below these companies," Martin wrote in a note to clients. Martin also raised estimates for 2018 and increased her price target to $165 from $150. Shares of Apple have increased 33% in the last 12 months, while the S&P 500 index has gained 15% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 18% during the same time frame.

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Microsoft, IBM stocks in brief plunge premarket following off-price trades

Shares of Microsoft Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. traded down over 10% at one point in premarket trade Friday, but it wasn't clear whether they were traded on the FINRA/NYSE Trade Reporting Facility (TRF) or the FINRA/Nasdaq TRF. According to FactSet's time and sales data, 57 Microsoft shares went through at $56.9171 at 8:00:25 a.m. ET, below the previous trade of $64.90 at 8:00:01 a.m., and 12% below Thursday's close of $64.87. The next trade at 8:21:37 a.m. was 40 shares at $64.95. For IBM, 22 shares changed hands at $154.785 at 8:00:25 a.m., down from $175.05 at 6:38:57 a.m., and down 11% from Thursday's close at $174.82. The next trade was 100 shares at $174.70 at 8:33:09. Another Dow Jones Industrial Average component's stock traded at a off-price level, as 75 shares of General Electric changed hands at $28.859 at 8:00:25, down 2.7% from Thursday's close. That trade was surrounded by a trade at $29.64 at 7:59:51 a.m. and $29.65 at 8:20:12 a.m. FINRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Finish Line's stock plunges after profit falls well short of expectations

Shares of Finish Line Inc. plunged 15% toward a 6 1/2-year low in premarket trade Friday, after the athletic shoe and apparel retailer reported a fiscal fourth-quarter profit that fell well short of expectations amid heavy discounting to clear inventory. For the quarter to Feb. 25, the company swung to a loss of $9.5 million, or 23 cents a share, from a profit of $4.0 million, or 9 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. Excluding non-recurring item, such as store impairment charge, adjusted earnings per share came to 50 cents, below the FactSet consensus of 70 cents. Revenue slipped to $557.5 million from $559.8 million, but was above the FactSet consensus of $548.1 million. Same-store sales declined 4.5%, compared with the FactSet consensus for a 4.2% drop. "As elements of our footwear offering did not resonate with our customers as we expected and the overall retail environment in February became increasingly difficult, we made the decision to get more aggressive on pricing to be competitive and clear slow moving product," said Chief Executive Sam Sato. The stock has tumbled 15% year to date through Thursday, while the SPDR S&P Retail ETF has lost 6.5% and the S&P 500 has gained 4.8%.

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TransCanada gets Presidential Permit to build the Keystone oil pipeline, ends bankruptcy claim

TransCanada Corp. said Friday it has received a Presidential Permit from the U.S. Department of State to construct the Keystone XL Pipeline. As a result, TransCanada said it will discontinue its bankruptcy claim and end its constitutional challenge. The company said it will continue to engage stakeholders throughout Nebraska, Montana and South Dakota to obtain permits and approvals so it can begin construction. "We greatly appreciate President Trump's Administration for reviewing and approving this important initiative and we look forward to working with them as we continue to invest in and strengthen North America's energy infrastructure," said TransCanada Chief Executive Russ Girling. Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had recused himself from dealings with the controversial Keystone pipeline, as Tillerson was CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp. , which would benefit from the pipeline being built. The project was rejected by former President Barack Obama in 2015. TransCanada's U.S.-listed shares, which were still inactive in premarket trade, have gained 0.8% over the past three months, while the S&P 500 has advanced 3.6%.

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Blackstone to sell its Seaworld stake to China's Zhonghong at a 33% premium to market prices

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. said Friday it was selling a 21% equity stake held by affiliates of the Blackstone Group to a subsidiary of China's Zhonghong Zhuoye Group Co. Ltd. for $23 a share. That represents a 33% premium to Thursday's stock closing price of $17.31. As part of the deal, which is expected to close in the second quarter of 2017, SeaWorld will advise Zhonghong on the development and design of theme parks operated by Zhonghong. SeaWorld will expand its board to 11 members to add two Zhonghong executives. Once the deal is completed, Blackstone will no longer hold any equity interest in SeaWorld or have any board seats. Blackstone is currently SeaWorld's largest shareholder with 19.5 million share, according to FactSet. At $23 a share, that stake would be valued at $448.5 million. "Zhonghong Group is making a significant, long-term investment in SeaWorld, reflecting their appreciation of the strength of our brand, our potential to grow the company and a shared commitment to protect wildlife and the environment," said SeaWorld Chief Executive Joel Manby. The stock, which was still inactive in premarket trade, has slumped 8.6% year to date, while the S&P 500 has gained 4.8%.

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Fed's Kaplan: Wants 'gradual' rate hikes but doesn't expect 'pause' in policy track

Dallas Federal Reserve President Robert Kaplan wants a "gradual and patient" approach to raising interest rates this year but said that doesn't necessarily include a "pause" in the Fed's rate-tightening policy. With its rate hike last week, Fed members signaled rough forecasts for two more rate hikes this year. San Francisco Fed President John Williams said Thursday that the Fed could approve up to a total of four hikes this year if economic improvement calls for such action. Kaplan didn't offer a number of anticipated hikes and said he'd like the opportunity to "turn over more cards" to judge the economy but said progress toward the dual inflation and employment mandates allowed for more accommodation reversal. That reversal will eventually include letting the Fed's $4.5 trillion balance sheet run off, but not until more action is taken to get the Fed funds target, the Fed's main interest-rate tool, back up toward a "neutral" rate. Kaplan said the Fed puts that neutral rate at a median 2.75%.

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