U.S. equity markets opened higher this morning on speculation — and some reports — that budget talks in the U.S. were making some progress. Asian markets clearly thought so, with most closing higher today on news of progress. In China, the new leadership is reported to be targeting GDP growth of 7.5% for next year, which was the country’s target for 2012 as well. China also wants to keep inflation at 3.5%, lower than the 2012 target of 4%. In Europe, S&P raised its rating on Greek debt to ‘B-’ after the country’s successful buyback of debt at a steep discount, which the ratings agency said indicated that the eurozone is not about to let Greece walk away from the single currency. In the U.S., the home builders’ confidence index rose to a six-year high (more coverage here), and bond yields rose in advance of today’s auction of 5-year Treasury notes (more coverage here).
The U.S. dollar index fell today, now down 0.27% at 79.352. The GSCI commodity index is down fractionally at 636.92, with commodities prices mostly lower today. WTI crude oil closed up 0.8% today, at $87.93 a barrel. Brent crude trades up 1.1% at $108.84 a barrel. Natural gas is up 1.6% today at about $3.41 per thousand cubic feet. Gold settled down 1.6% today at $1,670.70 an ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up 115 points to 13,350.50 (0.87%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 44 points (1.46%) to 3,054.53, and the S&P 500 rose 1.15% or more than 16 points to 1,446.76.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) cut to ‘sell’ with a target price of $11.50 at Topeka Capital Markets; Kansas City Southern (NYSE: KSU) cut to ‘market perform’ at FBR; Sirius XM Radio Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) started as ‘buy’ with a target price of $3.50 at Goldman Sachs; Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE: DUK) raised to ‘buy’ at Deutsche Bank; and Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) started as ‘neutral’ at J.P. Morgan.
Earnings reports since markets closed last Friday have resulted in the following price change as of the last half hour of trading today: Diamond Foods Inc. (NASDAQ: DMND) is up 2.2% at $14.27 and Sanderson Farms Inc. (NASDAQ: SAFM) is up 0.7% at $50.11.
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) is up 6.1% at $4.19. The smartphone maker continues to attract buyers who believe that the company remains undervalued.
Arbitron Inc. (NYSE: ARB) is up 23.6% at $47.01 after posting a new 52-week high of $47.20 earlier today. The radio research and ratings firm has agreed to a merger with Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) for $48 a share. More coverage here.
Galena Biopharma Inc. (NASDAQ: GALE) is down 17% at $1.55. The biopharmaceutical firm priced a secondary offering of 15.16 million shares at a discount of 14% to last night’s closing price.
GT Advanced Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: GTAT) is down 11.7% at $3.06 after posting a new 52-week low of $2.86 earlier today. The semiconductor manufacturing equipment maker provided weaker than expected fourth quarter and 2013 fiscal year guidance.
Stay tuned for Wednesday. We have noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 7:00 a.m. – Mortgage Bankers Association purchase applications
- 8:30 a.m. – Housing starts
- 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum storage report
- 1:00 p.m. – 7-year note auction