Markets opened higher this morning and after a decline in mid-morning moved higher and wobbled around modest gain to the beginning of the last hour of trading today. This morning’s report on personal income and spending was mildly positive(our coverage here) and the consumer sentiment poll surprised investors by climbing higher than expected (our coverage here). Only the Chicago PMI reading was a disappointment (our coverage here). The US dollar index fell today, now down -0.26% at 78.980. Commodities were mixed on the weaker dollar, with corn and wheat rising the most. WTI crude oil closed up about 0.2% at $103.02/barrel, and Brent crude trades up 0.53% at $123.04/barrel. WTI crude gained 4.2% in the first quarter. Gold settled up 1% today, at $1,671.90/ounce, bringing the yellow metal to a gain of 6.7% for the quarter.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up nearly 66 points to 13,211.74 (0.50%), the NASDAQ fell nearly 4 points (-0.12%) to 3,091.57, and the S&P 500 rose 0.37% or about 5 points to 1,408.46.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Gap Inc. (NYSE: GPS) raised to ‘buy’ at Janney; Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY) maintained as ‘hold’ at Argus; Lululemon Athletica Inc. (NASDAQ: LULU) started as ‘buy’ at UBS; Micron Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MU) reiterated ‘buy’ with an $11 target price at Jefferies; and Research in Motion Ltd. (NASDAQ: RIMM) maintained as ‘underperform’ with a $12 target price at Jefferies.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night have led to some price changes as of the last half hour of trading today: China Ming Yang Power Group Ltd. (NYSE: MY) is up 4.9% at $2.35; Research in Motion is up 6.8% at $14.67 (more coverage here); and Finish Line Inc. (NASDAQ: FINL) is down nearly -16% at $21.34 (more coverage here). After markets close today Forbes Energy Services Ltd. (NASDAQ: FES) will report earnings. Before markets open on Monday we’ll get earnings from Digital Domain Media Group Inc. (NYSE: DDMG) and Pep Boys – Manny Moe and Jack (NYSE: PBY), which is essentially meaningless now that the Pep Boys are being acquired by a private equity firm.
Other standouts from today include the following stocks:
ZaZa Energy Corp. (NASDAQ: ZAZA) is up more than 21% at $4.74. The independent oil & gas driller acquired new acreage in a liquids-rich shale play in East Texas.
Liz Claiborne Inc. (NYSE: LIZ) is up about 12% at $13.26 after posting a new 52-week high of $15.39 earlier today. The Wall Street Journal reported that the company was in takeover talks with several private equity firms for about $20/share.
Stay tuned for Monday. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard and Cleveland Fed President Sandra Pianalto are giving speeches. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
10:00 a.m. – Institute for Supply Management manufacturing index
10:00 a.m. – Construction spending
11:30 a.m. – 3- and 6-month bill auction
Have a great weekend!