Markets opened lower this morning and nothing came along all day to move any of the three major indexes above the neutral line. The morning’s report on housing starts was no better than flat with the January number, although the number of new permits jumped suggesting that March might see some more building action (our coverage here). The US dollar index was stronger today, now up 0.16% at 79.596. With few exceptions, commodities fell on the dollar strength. Oil took a considerably hard knock today, primarily because Saudi Arabia promised to take care of any supply shortages (our story here). WTI crude oil closed down -2.3% at $105.61/barrel, and Brent crude trades down -1.09% at $124.34/barrel. Gold settled down -1.2% today, at $1,647.00/ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down nearly 69 points to 13,170.19 (-0.52%), the NASDAQ fell more than 4 points (-0.14%) to 3,074.15, and the S&P 500 fell -0.30% or more than 4 points to 1,405.52.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including ARM Holdings plc (NASDAQ: ARMH) raised to ‘overweight’ at Barclays; Harley-Davidson Inc. (NYSE: HOG) raised to ‘outperform’ at BMO; United Parcel Service (NYSE: UPS) cut to ‘hold’ at Stifel Nicolaus; Kinder Morgan Inc. (NYSE: KMI) cut to ‘underperform’ at BofA/ML; and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) reiterated ‘buy’ and target prices raised to $740 and $700 at Sterne Agee and Credit Suisse, respectively (more coverage here).
Earnings reports since markets closed last Friday have led to some price changes as of the last half hour of trading today: First City Financial Corp. (NASDAQ: FCFC) is down -10.4% at $8.92; JA Solar Holdings Co. Ltd. (NASDAQ: JASO) is up 4.4% at $1.90; Jefferies Group Inc. (NYSE: JEF) is up 1.9% at $19.43; NuPathe Inc. (NASDAQ: PATH) is down -13.3% at $3.90; and Tiffany & Co. (NYSE: TIF) is up 6.8% at $73.37 (our coverage here). After the markets close today, Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL) and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. (NYSE: KKD) are scheduled to report earnings.
Other standouts from today include the following stocks:
Recon Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: RCON) is up nearly 82% at $4.09 after setting a new 52-week high of $4.58 earlier today. The Chinese oil field services company has cleared up its problems with Nasdaq and signed some new contracts for the first half of the year. More coverage here.
The US Commerce Department found the Chinese guilty of dumping solar panels in the US and has hit back with tariffs of 2.9% to 4.73% on solar panel imports. More coverage here.
Stay tuned for Wednesday. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is giving a speech. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 7:00 a.m. – Mortgage Banker’s Association purchase applications
- 10:00 a.m. – Existing home sales
- 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report