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After a flat opening this morning, markets turned down before reversing course in mid-morning to return to positive territory, where they spent the rest of the day. A good report on new US jobless claims and a report on housing prices showed a gain of 0.7% in the last quarter of 2011. Doubts about whether or not Greece would be able (or willing) to meet its commitments held European markets down and hampered what might have been larger gains today. The US oil inventory report showed a build of 1.6 million barrels, but the larger-than-expected gain didn’t slow oil price gains. WTI crude is up 1.51% at $107.89/barrel and Brent crude is up 0.64% at $123.69/barrel. Gold settled up 0.9% at $1,786.30, its highest finish in three months.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 46 points to 12,984.91 (0.36%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 24 points (0.81%) to 2,956.98, and the S&P 500 rose 0.43% or nearly 6 points to 1,363.46.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK) reiterated as ‘neutral’ at Credit Suisse; Level 3 Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: LVLT) raised to ‘overweight’ at Morgan Stanley; TJX Companies Inc. (NYSE: TJX) reiterated as ‘hold’ at Argus; Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) reiterated as ‘neutral’ at Credit Suisse; and Juniper Networks Inc. (NASDAQ: JNPR) cut to ‘market perform’ at FBR.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night have led to some price changes as of the last half hour of trading today: Angie’s List Inc. (NASDAQ: ANGI) is up 10.10% at $15.92; Boston Beer Company Inc. (NYSE: SAM) is down -4.5% at $99.88; Caribou Coffee Co. Inc. (NASDAQ: CBOU) is down -1.8% at $17.28; DryShips Inc. (NASDAQ: DRYS) is up 6.7% at $3.67; Flowserve Corp. (NYSE: FLS) is up 2.8% at $121.08; Fluor Corp. (NYSE: FLR) is up 6.2% at $64.11; Goodrich Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: GDP) is down -4.4% at $16.07; Hewlett Packard is down -6.4% at $27.08; KBR Inc. (NYSE: KBR) is up 9.1% at $36.01; American Tower Corp. (NYSE: AMT) is up 0.68% at $63.69; Bill Barrett Corp. (NYSE: BBG) is down -0.5% at $27.77; Charles & Colvard Ltd (NASDAQ: CTHR) is up 22.3% at $3.73 after posting a new 52-week high of $3.99 earlier today; Dillard’s Inc. (NYSE: DDS) is up 10.6% at $57.73; Dish Network Inc. (NASDAQ: DISH) is up 1.5% at $29.60 (more coverage here); Foster Wheeler AG (NASDAQ: FWLT) is up 7.5% at $25.58; Officemax Inc. (NYSE: OMX) is up 7.25% at $5.92; and Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) is up 3.5% at $54.80 (more coverage here).

Other standouts from today include the following stocks:

Vivus Inc. (NASDAQ: VVUS) is up nearly 80% at $18.93 after posting a new 52-week high of $21.44 earlier. The drug maker yesterday received an FDA panel approval for its obesity drug. More coverage here, here, and here.

Onvia Inc. (NASDAQ: ONVI) is up about 34% at $4.21. The government contractor service provider has rejected a buyout bid at $4.25/share, boosting hopes of a bidding war.

Sears Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: SHLD) is up nearly 19% at $61.93. The retailer reported an enormous loss, but also announced plans to pare down the company. More coverage here.

Penn Virginia Corp. (NYSE: PVA) is down nearly -15% at $4.92. The independent oil & gas company missed EPS estimates badly, and lowered its production forecast for 2012.

GrafTech International Ltd. (NYSE: GTI) is down more than -15% at $13.07. Volume is more than 10x the daily average of 1 million shares traded. The industrial products company reported a big revenue miss this morning.

Stay tuned for Friday. St. Louis Fed president James Bullard and New York Fed president William Dudley are giving speeches. We have noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 9:55 a.m. – Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index
  • 10:00 a.m. – New home sales

Paul Ausick

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