U.S. equity markets opened mixed this morning following a decision by the European Central Bank to leave its interest rates unchanged (more coverage here). Third-quarter eurozone GDP was in line with the expected contraction of 0.1%. In Asia, data was mixed and so were markets. In the U.S., new claims for unemployment benefits were sharply lower last week (more coverage here), and a recent Gallup poll indicated a sharp rise in November’s unemployment rate (more coverage here). The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ unemployment will be out tomorrow morning and the rate is expected to remain unchanged at 7.9%. The Fed’s Flow of Funds report showed that households are still deleveraging, but that wealth continues to grow (more coverage here).
The U.S. dollar index rose today, now up 0.61% at 80.260. The GSCI commodity index is down 0.3% at 643.26, with commodities prices mixed today. WTI crude oil closed down 1.8% today, at $86.26 a barrel. Brent crude trades down 1.8% at $106.84 a barrel. Natural gas is down 1.1% today at about $3.66 per thousand cubic feet following an expected large drawdown last week (more coverage here). Gold settled up 0.5% today at $1,701.80 an ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up nearly 40 points to 13,074.04 (0.30%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 16 points (0.52%) to 2,989.27, and the S&P 500 rose 0.33% or nearly 5 points to 1,413.91.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including JDS Uniphase Corp. (NASDAQ: JDSU) cut to ‘market perform’ at Raymond James; Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (NYSE: LGF) started as ‘neutral’ at Goldman Sachs; Southern Copper Corp. (NYSE: SCCO) raised to ‘buy’ at Citigroup; Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) raised to ‘outperform’ at Baird; and Fusion-io Inc. (NYSE: FIO) started as ‘buy’ at BofA/ML.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night have resulted in several price changes for reporting companies as of the last half hour of trading today: Men’s Wearhouse Inc. (NYSE: MW) is down 3.6% at $30.23; SAIC Inc. (NYSE: SAI) is down 3.5% at $11.26; Vera Bradley Inc. (NASDAQ: VRA) is down 12.1% at $23.05; Lululemon Athletica Inc. (NASDAQ: LULU) is up 6.7% at $73.21 (more coverage here); Smithfield Foods Inc. (NYSE: SFD) is up 0.2% at $22.94 (more coverage here); and Titan Machinery Inc. (NASDAQ: TITN) is up 1.6% at $23.51 (more coverage here).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. (NASDAQ: GMCR) is down 8% at $37.87. The coffee purveyor dipped following the aggressive growth plan mapped out yesterday by competitor Starbucks.
Stay tuned for Friday. We have noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 8:30 a.m. – Non-farm payroll and unemployment report
- 9:55 a.m. – University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters consumer sentiment index
- 3:00 p.m. – Consumer credit