US equity markets opened solidly higher this morning, but began to lose momentum by mid-morning. From there it’s been a mostly downhill day with the DJIA creeping back to nearly flat with about an hour of trading left this week. The release of November’s CPI — flat and up just 0.1% excluding food and energy — made no impact on trading. The IPO of social game maker Zynga Inc. (NASDAQ: ZNGA) went out at $10/share, but appears to be headed for a lower finish by about -5%. The US dollar showed some muscle today, and Treasury yields were lower, keeping the appetite for risk under wraps. WTI crude rose about 0.3% to $94.16/barrel and Brent crude was up by the same percentage at $103.91. Gold closed at $1,598.60, up about 1.4%.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down about 6 points to 11,862.68 (-0.05%), the NASDAQ rose more than 14 points (0.56%) to 2,555.33, and the S&P 500 rose 0.3% or more than 3.5 points to 1,219.40.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including an “outrageous” prediction from the UK’s Saxo Bank that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) would lose half its value in 2012. Other ratings actions today include Southern Copper Corp. (NYSE: SCCO) restarted as ‘equal weight’ with a $35 target price at Morgan Stanley; Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ: AMGN) raised to ‘neutral’ with a target price of $57 at Goldman Sachs; and Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) raised to ‘buy’ at Stifel Nicolaus. Research in Motion Ltd. (NASDAQ: RIMM) received a number of ratings changes this morning following an uninspired earnings report and delayed release of its new operating system software: shares cut to ‘market perform’ at BMO Capital Markets; maintained as ‘hold’ at Needham; maintained as ‘neutral’ at Credit Suisse; maintained ‘hold’ with lowered price target of $15 at Canaccord Genuity.
Here are today’s post-earnings news reactions with prices during the last half-hour of trading: Research in Motion Ltd. is down more than -11.5% at $13.38, after posting a new 52-week low of $13.12; Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE: DRI) is down -0.5% at $43.52; Steward Enterprises, Inc. (NASDAQ: STEI) is down more than -1.5% at $5.41; Hovananian Enterprises Inc. (NYSE: HOV) is down more than -4% at $1.29; and Quiksilver Inc. (NYSE: ZQK) is up more than 11% at $3.42.
Other standouts from today include the following stocks:
ISTA Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ISTA) is up nearly 71% at $6.65. The eye-care drug company is the target of a hostile takeover bid from Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. (NYSE: VRX) at a 68% premium to last night’s closing share price, or $6.50/share. More coverage here.
RSC Holdings Inc. (NYSE: RRR) is up more than 57% at $17.88, a new 52-week high. The construction and industrial equipment rental company is being acquired by competitor United Rentals Inc. (NYSE: URI) for $18/share, or about $1.9 billion in cash and stock.
Morton’s Restaurant Group Inc. (NYSE: MRT) is up nearly 33% at $$6.85. The steakhouse chain has agreed to an all-cash acquisition by privately held Landry’s Inc. at $6.90/share, for a total price of about $116.6 million.
Inhibitex Inc. (NASDAQ: INHX) is down more than -20.5% at $10.32. The biopharmaceutical firm is being hit with concerns over a new hepatitis C drug following the withdrawal of a rival drug discovered to impair liver function.
CryptoLogic Ltd. (NASDAQ: CRYP) is up more than 42% at $2.25, after posting a new 52-week high of $2.30 earlier today. The online gambling software maker is expected to get a takeover offer from Amaya Gaming Group (OTC: AMYGF) worth about $34.5 million.
Cobalt International Energy Inc. (NYSE: CIE) is up more than 21% at $10.90. The oil & gas E&P company was able to extend its lease on a deepwater rig from Transocean Ltd. (NYSE: RIG) that enables the company to continue exploring for two prospects offshore of Angola that the company believes may hold up to 2 billion barrels of crude.
Stay tuned for Monday. Richmond Federal Reserve Bank President Jeffrey Lacker is speaking in Charlotte, NC. Here are other noteworthy events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 10:00 a.m. – National Association of Builders housing market index
- 11:30 a.m. – 3- and 6- month Treasury bill auction
- 1:00 p.m. – Two-year Treasury note auction
Have a great weekend.