The three major US stock indexes opened mixed this morning as markets reacted to weak PMI reports from both Germany and China (more coverage here). A flash reading on US PMI was also at its lowest level in 11 months (more coverage here). New US jobless claims fell, but were a bit higher than analysts expected (more coverage here). But markets reacted most strongly to yesterday’s lack of announcement from Fed chairman Bernanke on a third round of quantitative easing and the central bank’s weaker forecast for US economic growth. Commodities took the (lack of) news especially badly. The manufacturing survey from the Philly Fed also fell sharply (more coverage here).
The US dollar index rose today, now up 0.81% at 82.241. The GSCI commodity index is down -1.9% at 575.29, with commodities prices almost uniformly lower today on the stronger dollar and the weak news on the economy. WTI crude oil closed down -4% at $78.20/barrel, its first close below $80 since October. Brent crude trades down -3.23% at $89.67/barrel. Natural gas rose about 2.6% today to $2.583/thousand cubic feet. Gold settled down -3.1%, at $1,565.50/ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down more than 251 points to 12,573.04 (-1.96%), the NASDAQ fell more than 71 points (-2.44%) to 2,859.09, and the S&P 500 fell -2.23% or more than 30 points to 1,325.50.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Chimera Investment Corp. (NYSE: CIM) cut to ‘underperform at BofA/ML and cut to ‘neutral’ at Credit Suisse; Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) started as ‘hold’ with a target price of $38 at Argus; TJX Companies Inc. (NYSE: TJX) raised to ‘outperform’ at Wells Fargo; Under Armour (NYSE: UA) cut to ‘neutral’ at UBS; and Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM) started as ‘buy’ at SunTrust.
Also take a look at today’s six unusual analyst upgrades/downgrades.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night have been scarce, but here are some price changes for reporting companies as of the last half hour of trading today: Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. (NASDAQ: BBBY) is down -16.9% at $61.23; Micron Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MU) is down -8.3% at $5.61; Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT) is down -6% at $53.09; Carmax Inc. (NYSE: KMX) is down -7.1% at $25.92; and ConAgra Foods Inc. (NYSE: CAG) is up 3% at $25.36 (more coverage here).
Other standouts from today include the following stocks:
Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK) is down -4.8% at $18.12. The natural gas producer has new board members (our coverage here) and is reportedly working on an asset sale to China’s Sinopec (NYSE: SNP). More coverage here.
Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ONXX) is up 42% at $63.41 after posting a new 52-week high of $64.68 earlier today. The drug maker got a favorable vote from the US FDA on one of its cancer drugs. More coverage here.
Patriot Coal Corp. (NYSE: PCX) is down -14.4% at $1.36. The coal miner had no news today, but the generally poor news on the economy hit all the coal stocks today. Patriot just took the biggest beating.
There are no events on the schedule for Friday, but we can likely count on some more uncertainty from the Eurozone.