24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell — January 4, 2013: Markets Improve on Early Gains (AAPL, SKT, URBN, FSLR, JNJ, LULU, SONC, MOS, FINL, PSX, ALU, SVU, EGLE)

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U.S. equity markets opened slightly higher this morning following the report that nonfarm payrolls had grown by 155,000, better than the expected growth of 150,000 (more coverage here). The December unemployment rate came in a 7.8%, flat with the revised figure for November, but below the expected rate of 7.7%. In Europe, non-manufacturing PMI data was release for the eurozone, and the reading for the entire group came in a 47.8, in line with expectations, but still indicating contraction. Retail sales were down year-over-year in Germany, but not by as much as estimated. In Asia, China’s non-manufacturing PMI fell slightly month-over-month and Australia’s reading fell from 47.1 to 42.3. U.S. equities rose early and remained in positive territory most of the day. The Nasdaq has posted the smallest gain following a report from Deutsche Bank that it does not expect Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) to meet quarterly sales estimates.

The U.S. dollar index rose 0.13% today, now at 80.484. The GSCI commodity index is down 0.4% at 650.05, with commodities prices mostly lower today. WTI crude oil closed up 0.2% today, at $93.09 a barrel, following a sharp decline in crude inventories (more coverage here). Brent crude trades down 1% at $111.18 a barrel. Natural gas is up 2.6% today at about $3.28 per million BTUs, following a slightly larger-than-expected draw on inventories (more coverage here). Gold settled down 1.5% today at $1,648.90 an ounce, and closed the week down 0.4%.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up nearly 44 points to 13,434.98 (0.33%), the NASDAQ rose about 1 point (0.04%) to 3,101.66, and the S&P 500 rose 0.48% or about 7 points to 1,466.41.

There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Tanger Factory Outlet Centers Inc. (NYSE: SKT) cut to ‘sell’ at Goldman Sachs; Urban Outfitters Inc. (NASDAQ: URBN) raised to ‘outperform’ at Credit Suisse; First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) cut to ‘underperform’ at Raymond James; Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) raised to ‘buy’ at Deutsche Bank; and Lululemon Athletica Inc. (NASDAQ: LULU) cut to ‘neutral’ at Credit Suisse.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night have resulted in these price changes for reporting companies as of the last half hour of trading today: Sonic Corp. (NASDAQ: SONC) is down 1.2% at $10.61; The Mosaic Co. (NYSE: MOS) is up 3.8% at $58.93 (more coverage here); and Finish Line Inc. (NASDAQ: FINL) is down 10% at $17.14 after posting a new 52-week low of $17.12 earlier today (more coverage here).

Before markets open on Monday we are scheduled to get an earnings report from Phillips 66 (NYSE: PSX).

Some standouts from today include the following stocks:

Supervalu Inc. (NYSE: SVU) is up 15.1% at $2.97. The supermarket chain is getting a bounce from a report that the company is nearing a deal with private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP to buy parts of the company.

Eagle Bulk Shipping Inc. (NASDAQ: EGLE) is up 27.2% at $2.29. The dry bulk shipper is leading a pack of competitors higher on expectations of an increase in iron ore shipments to China. More coverage here.

Alcatel-Lucent SA (NYSE: ALU) is up 11.5% at $1.63. The network technology company got an upgrade yesterday and the company is expected to benefit from the increased demand for network capacity due to the rise of tablets and smartphone sales.

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 auction
  • 3:00 p.m. – Treasury STRIPS

Have a great weekend!

Paul Ausick

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