US markets opened lower today and finally managed modest gains by mid-afternoon. News from Europe on the reluctance of banks to lend, coupled with an higher-than-expected yield on a French bond issue were not outweighed by encouraging employment news in the US. The ISM services index came in lower than expected, and mid-morning reports on US energy inventories sent natural gas and WTI crude oil prices lower. WTI crude is down about -1.4% at $101.73/barrel and Brent crude is down about -1% at $112.65/barrel. Gold is up more than 0.5% at $1,621.80.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down nearly 3 points to 12,415.70 (-0.02%), the NASDAQ rose more than 21 points (0.81%) to 2,669.86, and the S&P 500 rose 0.29% or nearly 4 points to 1,281.05.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Broadcom Corp. (NASDAQ: BRCM) maintained ‘buy’ with a $46 target price at Argus; Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) maintained ‘underperform’ and estimates cut at Needham; Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) raised to ‘outperform’ at Credit Suisse; Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) cut to ‘hold’ at Benchmark; and VMWare Inc. (NYSE: VMW) started as ‘buy’ at Sterne Agee.
Earnings reports of note since markets closed yesterday include: Constellation Brands Inc. (NYSE: STZ) is down about -3.5% at $19.72; Monsanto Co. (NYSE: MON) is up more than 5.5% at $76.70; Worthington Industries Inc. (NYSE: WOR) is down -0.6% at $17.55; and Helen of Troy Ltd. (NASDAQ: HELE) is up more than 4% at $32.73.
Other standouts from today include the following stocks:
Dendreon Corp. (NASDAQ: DNDN) is up nearly 40% at $10.61. The biotech company reported a sales jump of 25% for its prostate cancer drug. The company is one of our top biotech picks for 2012.
Ancestry.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: ACOM) is up more than 21% at $27.69. The internet genealogy provider reported a 22% rise in subscribers and forecast sales growth for 2012 of more than 14%.
Zumiez Inc. (NASDAQ: ZUMZ) is up nearly 17% at $30.74 after posting a new 52-week high earlier of $30.94. The sports apparel company reported a 10% same-store sales gain and raised guidance this morning. See our coverage here.
Orchard Supply Hardware Stores (NYSE: OSH) is down nearly -25% at $16.70. The home improvement store held its IPO on Monday and today provided a weak outlook for 2012.
Barnes & Noble Inc. (NYSE: BKS) is down more than -17% at $11.25. The bookstore chain said today that it is considering spinning off its Nook e-reader unit as a strategic option. Our coverage is available here.
American Eagle Outfitters Inc. (NYSE: AEO) is down more than -10% at $13.61. The clothing retailer slashed its fourth-quarter profit guidance by nearly a quarter.
Stay tuned for Friday. Federal Reserve Governors Elizabeth Duke and Sarah Bloom Raskin are speaking, as are Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren and New York Fed President William Dudley. Here are the noteworthy events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 8:30 a.m. – Employment reports, including non-farm payrolls
- 3:00 p.m. – US Treasury STRIPS