U.S. equity markets opened lower this morning and were never able to make a sustained push into positive territory. In Europe, the downgrade of French sovereign debt cooled the equity markets a bit (more coverage here), but the major indexes finished higher for the day. Eurozone finance ministers continued to dither over the pending loan to Greece (more coverage here). In Asia, markets were mixed as the Bank of Japan kept interest rates and asset purchases unchanged and China’s year-to-date foreign direct investment was reported to have fallen by 3.5% compared with the first 10 months of 2011. In the U.S., today’s only data point showed a higher-than-expected number of housing starts (more coverage here). Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s afternoon speech today didn’t boost any buying action either (more coverage here).
The U.S. dollar index rose today, now up 0.12% at 80.975. The GSCI commodity index is up 2.1% at 650.58, with commodities prices mixed today. WTI crude oil closed down 2.8% today, at $86.75 a barrel. Brent crude trades down about 1.7% at $109.76 a barrel. Natural gas is up 3.1% today at about $3.83 per thousand cubic feet. Gold settled down 0.6% today at $1,723.60 an ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down more than 6 points to 12,789.74 (-0.05%), the NASDAQ rose less than 1 point (0.02%) to 2,916.68, and the S&P 500 rose 0.07% or less than 1 point to 1,387.82.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Coach Inc. (NYSE: COH) started as ‘outperform’ at Wells Fargo; Applied Materials Inc. (NASDAQ: AMAT) reiterated as ‘buy’ with a target price of $16 at Argus; ARM Holdings plc (NASDAQ: ARMH) cut to ‘outperform’ from ‘strong buy’ at Raymond James; Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) cut to ‘neutral’ at UBS; and Whole Foods Market Inc. (NASDAQ: WFM) raised to ‘buy’ at Goldman Sachs.
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: Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: BRCD) is down 0.2% at $5.53 (more coverage here); Jack in the Box Inc. (NASDAQ: JACK) is down 1% at $26.00; Qihoo 360 Technology Co. Ltd. (NYSE: QIHU) is up 2.1% at $24.19; Shoe Carnival Inc. (NASDAQ: SCVL) is down 11.1% at $20.46; Brown Shoe Co. Inc. (NYSE: BWS) is up 6.4% at $16.75 after posting a new 52-week high of $16.96; Campbell Soup Co. (NYSE: CPB) is down 2.3% at $36.10; H.J. Heinz Co. (NYSE: HNZ) is down 2.2% at $57.46; and Tech Data Corp. (NASDAQ: TECD) is down 1.7% at $44.69.
After markets close today and before they open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear from Kid Brands Inc. (NYSE: KID), Salesforce.com Inc. (NYSE: CRM), Zale Corp. (NYSE: ZLC), and Deere & Co. (NYSE: DE).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Hewlett Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) is down 11.9% at $11.72 after posting a new 52-week low of $11.35 earlier today. The high-tech giant took a charge of $8.8 billion against earnings this morning, and we covered the sad story here and here.
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. (NYSE: KKD) is up 23.1% at $9.28 after posting a new 52-week high of $9.49 earlier today. The doughnut maker reported strong earnings and revenues last night and guided above consensus.
Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY) is down 13% at $11.97 after posting a new 52-week low of $11.74 earlier today (more coverage here). The consumer electronics retailer reported poor quarterly numbers this morning. More coverage here.
Stay tuned for Wednesday. 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):
- 7:00 a.m. – Mortgage Bankers Association purchase applications
- 8:30 a.m. – New claims for unemployment benefits
- 8:30 a.m. – Flash PMI
- 9:55 a.m. – Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index
- 10:00 a.m. – Leading economic indicators
- 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report
- 11:30 a.m. – 10-year Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS) auction
- 12:00 p.m. – EIA weekly natural gas storage report