U.S. equity markets opened lower this morning on a day that may be the least active of the year so far. The major Asian exchanges are closed today, with Shanghai and Hong Kong beginning the lunar new year celebrations and Japan closed for a national holiday. In Europe, a weekend release of tax returns by Spain’s prime minister did little to quell public questions about his finances. French industrial production slid 0.1% in January, which was a little better than expected. German 6-month bills saw their first positive yield in six months following today’s auction. There was no economic news in the U.S. today, either.
The U.S. dollar index fell 0.04% today, now at 80.217. The GSCI commodity index is rose 0.6% at 678.14, with commodities prices mixed again today. WTI crude oil closed up 1.4% today, at $97.03 a barrel, and post a drop of 2.1% for the week. Brent crude trades down 0.6% at $118.12 a barrel. Natural gas is up 0.3% today at about $3.28 per million BTUs. Gold settled down 1.1% today at $1,649.10 an ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down nearly 22 points to 13,971.24 (-0.16%), the NASDAQ fell about 2 points (-0.06%) to 3,192.00, and the S&P 500 fell -0.06% or about 1 point to 1,517.01.
There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Charles Schwab Corp. (NYSE: SCHW) cut to ‘sell’ at Citigroup; Sigma-Aldrich Corp. (NASDAQ: SIAL) cut to ‘sell’ at UBS; Tesoro Corp. (NYSE: TSO) raised to ‘buy’ at BofA/ML; Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) raised to ‘buy’ at Stifel Nicolaus; and AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL) raised to ‘outperform’ at RBC.
Earnings reports since markets closed Friday night resulted in several price moves today, including these: Cameco Corp. (NYSE: CCJ) is down 3.1% at $20.96; Loews Corp. (NYSE: L) is down 0.8% at $43.48 (more coverage here); Nordic American Tanker Ltd. (NYSE: NAT) is up 0.5% at $8.80 (more shipping coverage here); and Wausau Paper Corp. (NYSE: WPP) is up 0.5% at $9.77.
After markets close today and before they open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear from Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (NYSE: LGF), Avon Products Inc. (NYSE: AVP), Capella Education Co. (NASDAQ: CPLA), Fossil Inc. (NASDAQ: FOSL), Hercules Offshore Inc. (NASDAQ: HERO), Level 3 Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: LVLT), Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. (NYSE: KORS), Reynolds American Inc. (NYSE: RAI), The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO), The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE: MHP), and TransCanada Corp. (NYSE: TRP).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Zynga Inc. (NASDAQ: ZNGA) is up 8.4% at $3.72. The social game company appears to be getting more bounce from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s statement last week that he supports Internet gambling in the state, just not the bill he vetoed.
Starz (NASDAQ: STRZB) is up 12.9% at $18.00. The pay TV channel operator signed a five-year deal with Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) extending the Starz channels’ rights to first-run movies through 2021. More coverage here.
Stay tuned for Tuesday. President Obama is delivering his State of the Union speech. Kansas City Fed President Esther George, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart and Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser are giving speeches. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 7:30 a.m. – National Federation of Business small business optimism index
- 11:30 a.m. – 4-week bill auction
- 1:00 p.m. – 3-year note auction
- 2:00 p.m. – Treasury budget