The three major U.S. stock indexes opened flat this morning as world markets didn’t want to jump the gun on today’s announcement from the FOMC. The report on new claims for unemployment benefits came in higher than expected, adding even more weight to any possible rise in equity prices (more coverage here). The FOMC announcement that it would buy up to $40 billion a month in mortgage-backed securities and that it would maintain its very low interest rate policy at least through the first half of 2015 lit a fire under investors though (more coverage here). As you might expect, gold and silver jumped (more coverage here) and every sector posted gained.
The U.S. dollar index plunged today after the FOMC announcement, now down 0.67% at 79.199. The GSCI commodity index is up fractionally at 682.79, with commodities prices higher on the weaker dollar. WTI crude oil closed up 1.3% today, at $98.31 a barrel, following the Fed’s announcement as traders expect demand for crude to rise. Brent crude trades up 0.5% at $115.89 a barrel. Natural gas is down 0.8% today to $3.039 per thousand cubic feet. Gold closed at $1,772.10 an ounce, up 2.2%, its highest settlement since late February.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up nearly 207 points to 13,540.17 (1.55%), the NASDAQ rose more than 41 points (1.33%) to 3,155.83, and the S&P 500 rose 1.63% or more than 23 points to 1,459.99.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE: ANF) cut to ‘sell’ at Citigroup; Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) started as ‘hold’ at Jefferies; Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) maintained as ‘hold’ with a target price of $29 at Jefferies; Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) reiterated as ‘buy’ and target price raised to $810 at Goldman Sachs, with similar announcements from other analysts; and Allergan Inc. (NYSE: AGN) reiterated as ‘buy’ with a target price of $104 at Argus.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night have been scarce, but here are some price changes for reporting companies as of the last half hour of trading today: Pall Corp. (NYSE: PLL) is up 8.4% at $63.08; K12 Inc. (NYSE: LRN) is up 6.6% at $22.79 and Pier 1 Imports Inc. (NYSE: PIR) is up 0.9% at $19.72 after posting a new 52-week high of $20.25 earlier today.
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) is up 4.3% at $9.36. The big bank led other major financial institutions higher today following the FOMC statement.
Alpha Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE: ANR) is up 11.7% at $8.20. The coal miner continues its upward run, adding the FOMC announcement to the reasons to believe that global demand for coal will rise again.
BioFuel Energy Corp. (NASDAQ: BIOF) is up 55.4% at $6.45. The biofuel maker jumped on news that hedge fund manager David Einhorn raised his stake in the company.
Pluristem Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: PSTI) is down 14.3% at $3.89 a new 52-week low. The cell therapy products maker priced a secondary offering of 8 million shares today.
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) is up 2% at $682.86 after posting another new high of $685.50 earlier today. No news, it’s just another day at the office for Apple stock.
Stay tuned for Friday. 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. – Consumer price index
- 8:30 a.m. – Retail sales
- 9:15 a.m. – Industrial production
- 9:55 a.m. – University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters consumer sentiment index
- 10:00 a.m. – Business inventories