U.S. equity markets opened higher this morning following the report that new claims for unemployment benefits had fallen by 37,000 to a level not seen since 2008 (more coverage here). The government report on new housing starts also rose sharply in December, adding more fuel to a good start to the trading day (more coverage here). There was little data from both Europe and Asia, although Japan’s economy minister walked back his comments from yesterday regarding the yen’s value, causing the yen to fall again versus the U.S. dollar.
The U.S. dollar index fell 0.2% today, now at 79.651. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.2% at 653.31, with commodities prices mostly lower today. WTI crude oil closed up 1.3% today, at $95.49 a barrel on the strong U.S. economic data, among other things (more coverage here). Brent crude trades up 1.1% at $110.89 a barrel. Natural gas is up 1.5% today at about $3.49 per million BTUs after a sharper than expected drop in U.S. inventories (more coverage here). Gold settled up 0.5% today at $1,690.80 an ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up about 85 points to 13,596.09 (0.63%), the NASDAQ rose more than 18 points (0.59%) to 3,136.00, and the S&P 500 rose 0.56% or more than 8 points to 1,480.93.
There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Vivus Inc. (NASDAQ: VVUS) cut to ‘sell’ at Brean; Yum! Brands Inc. (NYSE: YUM) cut to ‘hold’ at Argus; ADTRAN Inc. (NASDAQ: ADTN) cut to ‘sell’ at UBS and raised to ‘neutral’ at Citigroup; Corning Inc. (NYSE: GLW) cut to ‘sector perform’ at RBC; and Medtronic Inc. (NYSE: MDT) raised to ‘outperform’ with a $50 price target at Credit Suisse.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in several price moves today, including these: eBay Inc. (NASDAQ: EBAY) is up 2.6% at $54.28 after posting a new 52-week high of $54.88 earlier today (more coverage here); Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP (NYSE: KMP) is up 0.3% at $88.18 (more coverage here); Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) is down 4.5% at $11.25 (more coverage here); BlackRock Inc. (NYSE: BLK) is up 4.5% at $232.29 after posting a new 52-week high of $234.46 earlier today; Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) is down 3.1% at $41.15 (more coverage here); PNC Financial Services Group Inc. (NYSE: PNC) is up 4.3% at $62.33; and UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) is up 1.3% at $54.38 (more coverage here).
Before markets open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear from American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP), Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE: COF), General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE), Johnson Controls Inc. (NYSE: JCI), Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS), Rockwell Collins Inc. (NYSE: COL), Schlumberger Ltd. (NYSE: SLB), and SunTrust Banks inc. (NYSE: STI).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS) is up 8.5% today at $41.18 after posting a new 52-week high of $42.55 earlier. The entertainment company will convert its outdoor advertising business to a REIT. Move coverage here.
K-Swiss Inc. (NASDAQ: KSWS) is up 47.7% at $4.71 after posting a new 52-week high of $4.73 earlier today. The athletic shoe maker is being acquired by a Korean firm for $170 million ($4.75 a share).
Leap Wireless International Inc. (NASDAQ: LEAP) is down 7.5% at $5.85. The wireless communications company was cut to ‘sell’ at Jefferies.
Stay tuned for Friday. We have noted the following event on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 9:55 a.m. – University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters consumer sentiment index