U.S. equity markets opened slightly higher this morning following another week with more than 400,000 new claims for jobless benefits (more coverage here) and weak news from Japan on exports. In Asia, the lower export numbers from Japan stoked hopes for another round of easing from the Bank of Japan. In Europe, another delay in the next bailout installment for Greece kept markets marginally lower (more coverage here). International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde expressed her belief that a deal was close, and that boosted markets somewhat. The consumer sentiment index in the U.S. also fell more than expected, while the leading indicators came in inline (more coverage here). A cease-fire between Israel and Hamas also gave stocks a lift late in the day.
The U.S. dollar index fell today, now 0.04% at 80.928. The GSCI commodity index is down 1.2% at 642.72, with commodities prices mixed again today. WTI crude oil closed up 0.7%% today, at $87.38 a barrel, following surprisingly large inventory drawdowns (more coverage here). Brent crude trades up about 1% at $110.94 a barrel. Natural gas is up 1.7% today at about $3.90 per thousand cubic feet, following an early release of the U.S. natural gas storage report (more coverage here). Gold settled up 0.3% today at $1,728.20 an ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up nearly 49 points to 12,837.35 (0.38%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 10 points (0.34%) to 2,926.55, and the S&P 500 rose 0.23% or about 3 points to 1,391.03.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Eaton Vance Corp. (NYSE: EV) cut to ‘sell’ at Citigroup; Marathon Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: MPC) resumed as ‘buy’ at BofA/ML; Yum! Brands Inc. (NYSE: YUM) started as ‘outperform’ at Macquarie; Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) cut to ‘sector perform’ at RBC, along with cuts at many other firms following yesterday’s debacle; and Coach Inc. (NYSE: COH) reiterated as ‘buy’ with a target price of $70 at Argus.
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: Kid Brands Inc. (NYSE: KID) is is down 10.1% at $1.61; Salesforce.com Inc. (NYSE: CRM) is up 8.9% at $158.90 (more coverage here); Zale Corp. (NYSE: ZLC) is down 29.6% at $5.24; and Deere & Co. (NYSE: DE) is down 3.7% at $82.84 (more coverage here).
U.S. markets are closed tomorrow for the Thanksgiving holiday, and will close early on Friday. We don’t have any major earnings scheduled until next week.
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) is up 12.2% at $3.31. The mobile handset maker had no news today, but a report of large holdings by institutional investors has attracted more buyers to the stock.
St. Jude Medical Inc. (NYSE: STJ) is down 12.4% at $31.30 after posting a new 52-week high of $30.25 earlier today. The medical equipment maker was hit by an FDA report of design and quality control problems in its heart-device manufacturing facility in California.
U.S. markets are closed tomorrow and will be open Friday only until 1:00 p.m. ET. We have noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 4:30 p.m. – Fed balance sheet and money supply
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!