Markets opened a few ticks lower this morning after a poor report on new claims for unemployment benefits in the US (our coverage here). The report that pending home sales jumped 4.1% lit a fire under investors and pushed equities higher (our coverage here). The EIA report on natural gas supplies held gas prices higher although they’ve dropped back by late afternoon (our coverage here). Yields on 7-year US Treasury notes were at a record low following Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s clarification of what “exceptionally low” interest rates mean (our coverage here). The US dollar index fell today, now down -0.17% at 78.932. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.04% at 677.57, with commodities mixed on the slightly weaker dollar. WTI crude oil closed up 0.4% at $104.55/barrel, and Brent crude trades up 0.65% at $119.89/barrel. Gold settled up 1.1% today, at $1,660.50/ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up nearly 114 points to 13,204.70 (0.87%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 21 points (0.69%) to 3,050.61, and the S&P 500 rose 0.67% or more than 9 points to 1,399.99.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including General Dynamics Corp. (NYSE: GD) cut to ‘equal-weight’ at Morgan Stanley; ABB Ltd. (NYSE: ABB) cut to ‘neutral’ at JPMorgan; Harley-Davidson Inc. (NYSE: HOG) raised to ‘overweight’ at Barclays; ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) raised to ‘neutral’ at Macquarie; and Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S) maintained as ‘hold’ at Argus.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night have led to some price changes as of the last half hour of trading today: Alcatel-Lucent S.A. (NYSE: ALU) is down -16.9% at $19.71 (our coverage here); Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO) is up 0.9% at $31.96 (our story here); Pepsico (NYSE: PEP) is down -0.3% at $66.44 (our story here); Tellabs Inc. (NASDAQ: TLAB) is down -5.1% at $3.83 (our coverage here); Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) is down -0.8% at $86.13 (our coverage here); Aetna Inc. (NYSE: AET) is down -8.4% at $45.22; Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE: BMY) is down -1.7% at $33.72; Bunge Ltd. (NYSE: BG) is down -2.6% at $65.69; JetBlue Airways Corp. (NASDAQ: JBLU) is down -0.1% at $4.64; Liz Claiborne Inc. (NYSE: LIZ) is up 9.4% at $13.87; Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. (NYSE: MJN) is up XX% at $XX; Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: REGN) is up 4% at $86.38 after posting a new 52-week high of $87.26n earlier today; Safeway Inc. (NYSE: SWY) is down -2.8% at $21.00; Stillwater Mining Co. (NYSE: SWC) is down -4.6% at $10.69; TASER International Inc. (NASDAQ: TASR) is up 5.7% at $4.39; United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE: UPS) is down -1.8% at $78.25; and Yandex N.V. (NASDAQ: YNDX) is down -5% at $23.31.
Other standouts from today include the following stocks:
Akamai Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: AKAM) is down -14.8% at $33.03. The technology provider beat estimates but issued weak guidance.
Stay tuned for Friday. We have noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 8:30 a.m. – GDP report
- 8:30 a.m. – Employment cost index
- 9:55 a.m. – Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index