U.S. equity markets opened slightly lower this morning as data from Europe and Asia combined with a larger than expected U.S. trade deficit to pour cool, if not cold, water on the opening. In Asia, Japan announced a new $117 billion stimulus package, but higher than expected inflation in China countered hopes for more stimulus in the world’s most populous country. In Europe, Spain’s November industrial production declined more than expected, dropping to a negative growth rate of 7.2% compared with November 2011. The International Energy Agency (IEA) said that oil demand in European OECD countries will drop another 190,000 barrels a day on top of a decline of 510,000 barrels a day in 2012. That does not bode well for growth in the eurozone. The U.S. Treasury reported this afternoon that the federal budget deficit grew by $260 million in December (more coverage here).
The U.S. dollar index fell 0.24% today, now at 79.546. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.6% at 653.11, with commodities prices mostly higher again today on weak forecast for crop production (more coverage here). WTI crude oil closed down 0.3% today, at $93.56 a barrel, to close the week up about 0.5%. Brent crude trades down about 1.2% at $110.49 a barrel. Natural gas is up 4.4% today at about $3.33 per million BTUs. Gold settled down 1% today at $1,660.60 an ounce, but gained 0.7% for the week.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 17 points to 13,488.43 (0.13%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 4 points (0.12%) to 3,125.63, and the S&P 500 fell fractionally (less than 0.1 point) to 1,472.05.
There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades of note today, including J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) cut to ‘sell’ at UBS; General Mills Inc. (NYSE: GIS) cut to ‘sell’ at Goldman Sachs; American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG) started as ‘outperform’ at FBR; Research in Motion Ltd. (NASDAQ: RIMM) cut to ‘underperform’ at BMO; and Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIAB) raised to ‘buy’ at Janney.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in some price moves today, including these as of the last half hour of trading: Synnex Corp. (NYSE: SNX) is down 1.1% at $35.45 and Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) is down 1.1% at $35.01.
After markets close today and before they open Monday morning we are scheduled to hear from PPG Industries Inc. (NYSE: PPG).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) is up another 6.2% today at $4.72. The mobile phone maker continues to post gains on its strong preliminary fourth quarter report.
Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY) is up 16.8% at $14.26. The consumer electronics retailer reported holiday earnings that were not as bad as feared, and founder Richard Schulze appears still to be interested in taking the company private. More coverage here.
Unwired Planet Inc. (NASDAQ: UPIP) is up 39.7% at $1.83. The intellectual property company has agreed to acquire thousands of patents from Sweden’s L.M. Ericsson.
ArQule Inc. (NASDAQ: ARQL) is down 12% at $2.57. The biotech firm’s tivantinib colorectal cancer drug did not meet its primary endpoints in a phase 2 trial. 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 bill auctions
- 3:00 p.m. – Treasury STRIPS
Have a great weekend!