U.S. equity markets opened higher this morning following comments after Friday’s meeting between President Obama and Congressional leaders to discuss ways of dodging the fiscal cliff. Some were also expecting negotiations to begin in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, but these have not yet materialized. There was little new economic data in Europe today, and little from Asia as well. Hong Kong’s unemployment rate rose from 3.3% to 3.4% and in China coal imports rose for the first time in four months. In the U.S., existing home sales rose, as did homebuilder confidence (more coverage here). Both mark a continuation of the slow recovery in the U.S. housing market.
The U.S. dollar index fell today, now down 0.46% at 80.881. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.5% at 637.01, with commodities prices mostly higher today on the weaker dollar. WTI crude oil closed up 2.7% today, at $89.28 a barrel. Brent crude trades up about 2.7% at $111.68 a barrel. Natural gas is down 2.1% today at about $3.71 per thousand cubic feet. Gold settled up 1.1% today at $1,733.30 an ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 207 points to 12,795.58 (1.65%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 63 points (2.21%) to 2,916.07, and the S&P 500 rose 2% or nearly 27 points to 1,386.86.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Lab Corp. of America (NYSE: LH) cut to ‘sell’ at Goldman Sachs; Halliburton Co. (NYSE: HAL) raised to ‘outperform’ at Macquarie; Rambus Inc. (NASDAQ: RMBS) raised to ‘overweight’ at JPMorgan; Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO) raised to ‘buy’ at UBS; and Williams-Sonoma Inc. (NYSE: WSM) raised to ‘buy’ at BofA/ML.
Earnings reports of interest since U.S. markets closed last Friday have resulted in some price moves today, including these as of the last half hour of trading: Lowe’s Companies Inc. (NYSE: LOW) is up 6.1% at $33.92 after posting a new high of $34.50 earlier today (more coverage here) and Tyson Foods Inc. (NYSE: TSN) is up 10.9% at $18.72 (more coverage here).
After markets close today and before they open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear from Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: BRCD), Jack in the Box Inc. (NASDAQ: JACK), Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. (NYSE: KKD), Qihoo 360 Technology Co. Ltd. (NYSE: QIHU), Shoe Carnival Inc. (NASDAQ: SCVL), Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY), Brown Shoe Co. Inc. (NYSE: BWS), Campbell Soup Co. (NYSE: CPB), H.J. Heinz Co. (NYSE: HNZ), Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), and Tech Data Corp. (NASDAQ: TECD).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
BioMimetic Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: BMTI) is up 74.5% at $7.24 after posting a new high of $7.41 earlier today. The regenerative medicine products maker has agreed to combine with Wright Medical Group Inc. (NASDAQ: WMGI) in a deal worth about $380 million to BioMimetic shareholders.
Diamond Foods Inc. (NASDAQ: DMND) is down 11.4% at $13.40 after posting a new 52-week low of $13.31 earlier today. The snack food maker continues to suffer from its earnings restatements.
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) is up 6.9% at $564.23. The consumer electronics and computer maker bounced back big today from a recent flurry of sell-offs. Apple’s weight carried the Nasdaq Composite up more than 2% today.
Stay tuned for Tuesday. Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke are giving speeches. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 8:30 a.m. – Housing starts
- 11:30 a.m. – 4-week Treasury bill auctions