U.S. equity markets opened higher this morning, but the three major indexes fell below the neutral line after the first hour or so of trading. In Europe, Greece said its GDP contracted by 7.2% in the third quarter and there were street demonstrations against austerity measures in France, Portugal, Italy, and Spain. In Asia, China is set to make official appointments to its Politburo and Japan’s prime minister will dissolve the country’s parliament next week, setting up new elections. U.S. producer prices fell by 0.2% in October, but retail sales also declined, by 0.3% (more coverage here). Mortgage applications in the U.S. spiked higher last week as rebuilding from the effects of Hurricane Sandy begin (more coverage here). The release of the FOMC minutes pushed equity prices down even more late this afternoon (more coverage here).
The U.S. dollar index fell slightly today, now down 0.07% at 81.024. The GSCI commodity index is down 0.2% at 633.32, with commodities prices mostly higher today. WTI crude oil closed up 1.1% today, at $86.32 a barrel. Brent crude trades up about 1.1% at $109.61 a barrel. Natural gas is up 0.5% today at about $3.76 per thousand cubic feet. Gold settled up 0.3% today at $1,730.10 an ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down nearly 185 points to 12,571.34 (-1.45%), the NASDAQ fell nearly 37 points (-1.28%) to 2,847.03, and the S&P 500 fell -1.39% or about 19 points to 1,355.50.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Barrick Gold Corp. (NYSE: ABX) cut to ‘hold’ at Argus; J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) cut to ‘neutral’ at JPMorgan; Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (NYSE: POT) cut to ‘hold’ at Canaccord Genuity; The Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD) cut to ‘market perform’ at Raymond James; and Sohu.com Inc. (NASDAQ: SOHU) started as ‘underweight’ at HSBC.
Earnings reports of interest since U.S. markets closed last night have resulted in some price moves today, including these as of the last half hour of trading: Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) is up 4.9% at $17.68 (more coverage here); Renren Inc. (NYSE: RENN) is down 0.9% at $3.35; Staples Inc. (NASDAQ: SPLS) is up 2.4% at $11.52 (more coverage here); and Tyco International Ltd. (NYSE: TYC) is down 1.9% at $26.80.
After markets close today and before they open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear from Diamond Foods Inc. (NASDAQ: DMND), DryShips Inc. (NASDAQ: DRYS), NetApp Inc. (NASDAQ: NTAP), PetSmart Inc. (NASDAQ: PETM), Spectrum Brands Holdings Inc. (NYSE: SPB), GameStop Corp. (NYSE: GME), Ross Stores Inc. (NASDAQ: ROST), Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIAB), and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Iamgold Corp. (NYSE: IAG) is down 19.4% at $11.99. The Canadian gold miner missed both earnings and revenue expectations this morning as production faltered.
Stay tuned for Thursday. Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher, and Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser are giving speeches. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 8:30 a.m. – Consumer price index
- 8:30 a.m. – New claims for unemployment benefits
- 8:30 a.m. – Empire State manufacturing survey
- 10:00 a.m. – Philadelphia Fed survey
- 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly natural gas storage report
- 11:00 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report
- 1:20 p.m. – Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks
- 4:30 p.m. – Fed balance sheet and money supply