Markets opened sharply this morning and remained in negative territory all day. Purchasing managers’ indexes in the eurozone and in China came in lower than expected this morning, weighing European and Asian shares. The US dollar index rose slightly today, now up 0.10% at 79.733. Commodities were mixed on the dollar strength, with grains and sugar higher, and most other commodities lower. The US EIA weekly natural gas storage report showed a gain of 11 billion cubic feet in US inventories, sending natural gas prices tumbling nearly -4%. (our coverage here). WTI crude oil closed down -1.8% at $105.35/barrel, and Brent crude trades down -0.88% at $123.11/barrel. Gold settled down -0.5% today, at $1,642.50/ounce, a nine-week low.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down more than 78 points to 13,046.14 (-0.60%), the NASDAQ fell 12 points (-0.39%) to 3,063,32, and the S&P 500 fell -0.72% or about 10 points to 1,392,79.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) raised to ‘neutral’ with a $92 target price at JPMorgan; Western Digital Corp. (NYSE: WDC) raised to ‘strong buy’ at Needham; Rackspace Hosting Inc. (NYSE: RAX) cut to ‘neutral’ at Goldman Sachs; Annaly Capital Management Inc. (NYSE: NLY) cut to ‘underperform’ at Sterne Agee; and Emerson Electric Co. (NYSE: EMR) raised to ‘buy’ at Nomura.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night have led to some price changes as of the last half hour of trading today: BankAtlantic Bancorp Inc. (NYSE: BBX) is down -1.7% at $3.97; ConAgra Foods Inc. (NYSE: CAG) is down -0.6% at $26.21; Gamestop Corp. (NYSE: GME) is down -6% at $23.17; IHS Inc. (NYSE: IHS) is down -4.9% at $92.89; Lululemon Athletica Inc. (NASDAQ: LULU) is up 2.9% at $76.20 after posting a new 52-week high of $76.66 earlier today; Perry Ellis International Inc. (NASDAQ: PERY) is up 3% at $18.42; Sonic Corp. (NASDAQ: SONC) is down -6.8% at $7.50; and The9 Ltd. (NASDAQ: NCTY) is down -5% at $7.01.
Other standouts from today include the following stocks:
Sturm, Ruger & Co. (NYSE: RGR) is up 13.4% at $47.95 after posting a new 52-week high today of $48.24. Smith & Wesson Holdings Co. (NASDAQ: SWHC) is up nearly 14% at $7.84 after posting a new 52-week high of $8.00. The gunmakers are rising on Ruger’s announcement that it will not be accepting any new orders until May because it is fully booked. More coverage here.
Stay tuned for Friday. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, and St. Louis Fed President James Bullard are giving speeches. We have also noted the following event on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 10:00 a.m. – New home sales