U.S. equity markets opened higher this morning following a poor growth forecast from Europe and a better-than-expected report on U.S. unemployment. The German central bank said this morning that Germany’s expected GDP growth in 2013 was a mere 0.4%, down massively from a 1.6% growth projection in July (more coverage here). In Asia markets closed mixed, with Shanghai up the most on a report of a large urbanization plan for Sichuan province. The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.7% in November and non-farm payrolls rose by 146,000 (more coverage here). That good news was diluted by a poor report on consumer sentiment (more coverage here). Markets finished mixed today, with the tech heavy Nasdaq closing lower and the S&P and the Dow both closing higher.
The U.S. dollar index rose today, now up 0.19% at 80.408. The GSCI commodity index is down 1.2% at 635.69, with commodities prices mostly lower today on the stronger dollar. WTI crude oil closed down 0.4% today, at $85.93 a barrel, down more than 3% for the week. Brent crude trades flat at $107.03 a barrel. Natural gas is down 3% today at about $3.56 per thousand cubic feet. Gold settled up 0.2% today at $1,705.50 an ounce, but fell 0.4% on the week.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up about 81 points to 13,155.13 (0.62%), the NASDAQ fell more than 11 points (-0.38%) to 2,978.04, and the S&P 500 rose 0.29% or about 4 points to 1,418.07.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Teck Resources Ltd. (NYSE: TCK) cut to ‘hold’ at TD Securities; McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) raised to ‘buy’ with a target price of $104 at Janney Capital; Syngenta AG (NYSE: SYT) raised to ‘neutral’ at JPMorgan Chase; Aetna Inc. (NYSE: AET) raised to ‘overweight’ with a target price of $52 at JPMorgan Chase; and Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. (NASDAQ: MPEL) raised to ‘overweight’ with a $20 target price at JPMorgan Chase.
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: Harry Winston Diamond Corp. (NYSE: HWD) is down 1.4% at $14.21; Palo Alto Networks Inc. (NYSE: PANW) is down 0.3% at $51.14 (more coverage here); and Smith & Wesson Holding Co. (NASDAQ: SWHC) is down 8.1% at $9.97 (more coverage here).
No significant earnings reports are due before markets open Monday morning, but later that day we’re scheduled to hear from Winnebago Industries Inc. (NYSE: WGO), Uranium Energy Corp. (NYSEMKT: UEC), Stein Mart Inc. (NASDAQ: SMRT), Scholastic Corp. (NASDAQ: SCHL), Ferrellgas Partners LP (NYSE: FGP), and Comverse Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: CMVT).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ: GRPN) is up 20.7% at $4.60. The daily deals company had no news today, and everybody wonders what’s going on. Unfortunately shares are still down about 75% for the year to date.
Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) is up 2% at $11.46. The automaker recalled 19,000 of its 2013 Fusion models today and Consumer Reports challenged the mileage ratings on two of its hybrid models. Investors don’t seem to mind. More coverage here.
Stay tuned for Monday. We have noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
11:30 a.m. – 3- and 6-month Treasury bill auctions
Have a great weekend!