On The Fly: Top stock stories at midday

Stocks on Wall Street were lower at midday, which has been a rare occurrence so far in 2018. The S&P 500 hasn't had a red close so far in the first sessions of the new year, though that may change today as investors have shown concern about treasuries following a report suggesting that China could slow or halt its purchases of U.S. bonds. While not fully recovered, the averages have been drifting off their opening lows throughout the morning and stand at their best levels of the day near noon. ECONOMIC EVENTS: In the U.S., import prices rose 0.1% in December, though export prices dipped 0.1%. Wholesale inventories rose 0.8% in November and sales jumped 1.5%, both of which beat estimates. COMPANY NEWS: Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) added two senior executives who are both long-time contenders to succeed Warren Buffett - Greg Abel and Ajit Jain - to its board as speculation grows about succession plans for the "Oracle of Omaha." Buffett, Berkshire's long-time Chairman and CEO, was not concrete about how much longer he intends to lead the conglomerate he built in an interview with CNBC this morning following the board announcement, though he was willing to say ten years "would be a long time" to continue running Berkshire. MAJOR MOVERS: Among the notable gainers was AmTrust Financial Services (AFSI), which gained 26% after the company received a proposal from private equity funds managed by Stone Point Capital, together with the Chairman and CEO and the family that controls the company, to acquire all of AmTrust's outstanding shares that the Karfunkel-Zyskind Family does not already own or control for $12.25 per share in cash. Also higher was Novavax (NVAX), which jumped 38% after the company provided further details about an informational analysis of Prepare, an ongoing Phase 3 trial of an RSV F vaccine for maternal immunization to protect newborn infants. Among the noteworthy losers was Supervalu (SVU), which dropped 13% after the grocery store operator reported earnings and issued its FY18 outlook. Also lower after announcing preliminary financial results for the quarter and updating its outlook for FY18 was NetScout (NTCT), which slid 13%. INDEXES: Near midday, the Dow was down 10.39, or 0.04%, to 25,375.41, the Nasdaq was down 23.35, or 0.33%, to 7,140.23, and the S&P 500 was down 3.80, or 0.14%, to 2,747.49.

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