24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell — August 20, 2012: Markets Uninspired Again (SCCO, BRCD, AZN, ROST, BEBE, LOW, COCO, URBN, BBY, TECD, BKS, ADI, DELL, MDT, VLO, CVH, AET, LDK)

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The three major US stock indexes opened lower this morning following a negative reaction by a government official to a weekend report that Germany would support a sovereign bond-buying plan for the European Central Bank (our coverage here). In Asia, expectations have risen that the central bank will not make any near-term change in interest rates. Additional restrictions on property lending are also rumored. There was no data of note released today, so rumors ruled as the empire dozed.

The US dollar index fell today, now down 0.15% at 82.469. The GSCI commodity index is essentially flat today at 667.56, with commodities prices mostly higher. WTI crude oil finished nearly flat as well today, closing down just $0.04 at $95.97/barrel. Brent crude trades down 0.29% at $113.38/barrel. Natural gas is up 2.2% today to $2.78/thousand cubic feet. Gold settled at $1,623.00/ounce, up 0.2%.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down nearly 4 points to 13,271.64 (0.03%), the NASDAQ fell less than 1 point (0.01%) to 3,076.21, and the S&P 500 closed flat at 1,418.12.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Southern Copper Corp. (NYSE: SCCO) started as ‘outperform’ at Credit Suisse; Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: BRCD) reiterated as ‘hold’ at Argus; AstraZeneca PLC (NYSE: AZN) cut to ‘underweight’ at JPMorgan; Ross Stores Inc. (NASDAQ: ROST) raised to ‘buy’ at BofA/ML; and Bebe Stores Inc. (NASDAQ: BEBE) cut to ‘neutral’ at Janney.

Earnings reports since markets closed last last Friday have led to some price changes as of the last half hour of trading today: Lowe’s Companies Inc. (NYSE: LOW) is down 6.3% at $26.10 (more coverage here) and Corinthian Colleges Inc. (NASDAQ: COCO) is down 4% at $2.35 (more coverage here).

Earnings releases have slowed way down, but reports scheduled for Tuesday include Urban Outfitters Inc. (NASDAQ: URBN), Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY), Tech Data Corp. (NASDAQ: TECD), Barnes & Noble Inc. (NYSE: BKS), Analog Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: ADI), Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL), and Medtronic Inc. (NYSE: MDT) (more details here).

Some standouts from today include the following stocks:

Valero Energy Corp. (NYSE: VLO) is up 3% at $29.65, after setting a new 52-week high of $29.78 earlier today. The oil refiner got a bit of a boost from reports that ethanol stocks are being consumed. Even though ethanol makers are losing money on every gallon, the cattle feed by-product continues to provide margin of about $0.12/gallon. Refiner’s stocks are rising now, but that could change quickly as crude prices rise.

Coventry Health Care Inc. (NYSE: CVH) is up 19.6% at $41.80 after posting a new 52-week high of $41.90 earlier today. The health-care provider is being acquired by Aetna Inc. (NYSE: AET) for $5.7 billion in cash and stock. More coverage here.

LDK Solar Co. Ltd. (NYSE: LDK) is up 12.7% at $1.51. The solar PV module maker is leading a number of Chinese solar makers higher today, primarily on the strength of a government finding that the US government has unfairly funded several green energy projects in Ohio and other states. The belief is that US-suppliers will get booted from the contracts and be replaced by China’s own solar makers.

Stay tuned for Tuesday. Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart is giving a speech.We have noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 8:30 a.m. – ICSC-Goldman store sales
  • 11:30 a.m. – 4- and 52-week bill auctions

Paul Ausick

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