U.S. equity markets opened higher this morning following a better-than-expected quarterly earnings report from Alcoa Inc. (NYSE: AA). There was not a lot of economic data out today, so corporate earnings had to push share prices higher. In Europe, the data was decidedly mixed: German industrial production was lower than forecast; the U.K. trade deficit was a bit larger than expected; and ;the eurozone’s final third quarter GDP reading showed the expected 0.1% contraction. In Asia, the Bank of Japan is reportedly going to adopt a 2% inflation target and double its asset purchase program. South Korea’s unemployment rate is unchanged at 3%.
The U.S. dollar index rose 0.23% today, now at 80.538. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.2% at 650.18, with commodities prices mixed again today. WTI crude oil closed essentially unchanged today, at $93.10 a barrel, following today’s report of a 1.3 million barrel increase in crude stocks (more coverage here). Brent crude trades down about 0.3% at $111.67 a barrel. Natural gas is down 3.2% today at about $3.12 per million BTUs. Gold settled dow 0.4% today at $1,655.50 an ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up about 2 points to 13,390.90 (0.47%), the NASDAQ rose about 14 points (0.45%) to 3,105.81, and the S&P 500 rose 0.26% or nearly 4 points to 1,461.01.
There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades of note today, including Monsanto Co. (NYSE: MON) raised to ‘buy’ with a price target of $114 at Argus; Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc. (NASDAQ: DNKN) raised to ‘buy’ at Janney; Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) maintained as ‘underperform’ but price target raised to $68 at BofA/Merrill Lynch; Ralph Lauren Corp. (NYSE: RL) raised to ‘outperform’ at Macquarie; and Sysco Corp. (NYSE: SYY) cut to ‘underweight’ at Morgan Stanley.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in some price moves today, including these as of the last half hour of trading: Alcoa Inc. (NYSE: AA) is unchanged at $9.10 (more coverage here); Apollo Group Inc. (NASDAQ: APOL) is down 7.4% at $19.39 (more coverage here); Constellation Brands Inc. (NYSE: STZ) is down 0.6% at $35.84 (more coverage here); Greenbrier Companies Inc. (NYSE: GBX) is up 3.6% at $17.89 (more coverage here); and Helen of Troy Ltd. (NASDAQ: HELE) is up 2.7% at $34.44.
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Canadian Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: CSIQ) is up 18.6% at $4.39. The Chinese solar panel maker is leading solar stocks higher today, following a Chinese government announcement that the country will install 10,000 megawatts of solar power generation this year. More coverage here.
Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) is down 7.9% at $3.73. The mobile phone maker had no news today, but chatter about a cheap iPhone can’t be helping the stock price.
Clearwire Corp. (NASDAQ: CLWR) is up 7.7% at $3.15. The wireless carrier received a counter-bid from Dish Network Corp. (NASDAQ: DISH) to the offer from majority owner Sprint Nextel Inc. (NYSE: S). More coverage here.
Herbalife Inc. (NYSE: HLF) is up 3.8% at $39.82. The weight loss and nutritional supplement seller picked up a supporter today, with a large purchase of its stock by private equity firm Third Point LLC. Reuters reported late today that the SEC has opened an inquiry into the company. More coverage here.
Stay tuned for Thursday. Kansas City Fed President Esther George, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, and Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota are giving speeches. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 8:30 a.m. – New claims for unemployment benefit
- 10:00 a.m. – Wholesale trade
- 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly natural gas storage report
- 1:00 p.m. – 30-year note auction
- 4:30 p.m. – Fed balance sheet and money supply