U.S. equity markets opened about flat this morning on another day devoid of significant data releases. In Asia, markets in China and Hong Kong remain closed for the holiday, but Japan’s Nikkei closed higher. In Europe, U.K. CPI data was mixed and France reported a higher-than-expected current account deficit. In Italy, a new corruption scandal broke out related to the head of the country’s largest defense contractor. U.S. markets took their cue from earnings reports and from a speech by Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) that weighed on tech stocks (more coverage here). The Treasury budget showed a surplus of $2.88 billion, but did little to sway markets.
The U.S. dollar index fell 0.26% today, now at 80.098. The GSCI commodity index is down fractionally at 677.66, with commodities prices mostly lower today. WTI crude oil closed up 0.5% today, at $97.51 a barrel after the U.S. EIA released its monthly outlook (more coverage here). Brent crude trades up 0.5% at $118.65 a barrel. Natural gas is down 1.3% today at about $3.24 per million BTUs. Gold settled down fractionally today at $1,649.60 an ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up about 48 points to 14,019.24 (0.34%), the NASDAQ fell more than 5 points (-0.17%) to 3,186.49, and the S&P 500 rose 0.16% or more than 2 points to 1,519.42.
There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK) started as ‘equal weight’ at Barclays; Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) cut to ‘market perform’ at Bernstein; Las Vegas Sands Corp. (NYSE: LVS) raised to ‘buy’ with a price target of $25 at Argus; Royal Gold Inc. (NASDAQ: RGLD) raised to ‘buy’ at UBS; and E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. (NYSE: DD) started as ‘equal weight’ at Barclays.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in several price moves today, including these: Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (NYSE: LGF) is down 0.7% at $19.61 (more coverage here); Capella Education Co. (NASDAQ: CPLA) is down 1.2% at $31.63; Fossil Inc. (NASDAQ: FOSL) is up 3.1% at $110.83; Hercules Offshore Inc. (NASDAQ: HERO) is up 1.4% at $7.12 after posting a new 52-week high of $7.40 earlier today; Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT) is down 13.5% at $21.34; Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. (NYSE: KORS) is up 8.4% at $61.79 after posting an all-time high of $64.55 earlier today (more coverage here); Reynolds American Inc. (NYSE: RAI) is down 0.8% at $43.87; The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) is down 3% at $37.46 (more coverage here); The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE: MHP) is down 0.9% at $43.89 (more coverage here); and TransCanada Corp. (NYSE: TRP) is down 1.5% at $47.45.
After markets close today and before they open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear from Bankrate Inc. (NYSE: RATE), Buffalo Wild Wings Inc. (NASDAQ: BWLD), Clearwire Corp. (NASDAQ: CLWR), Rackspace Hosting Inc. (NYSE: RAX), Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA), Dean Foods Inc. (NYSE: DF), Deere & Co. (NYSE: DE), and Total SA (NYSE: TOT).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Avon Products Inc. (NYSE: AVP) is up 20.8% at $20.87. The cosmetics firm posted results for the fourth quarter that looked outstanding compared with so many previous quarters. The company has begun to stabilize sales and expects to pay down some debt early this year.
Zynga Inc. (NASDAQ: ZNGA) is down 10.9% at $3.27. The social games company is losing steam following a downgrade to Facebook stock after a couple of days of nice gains.
LDK Solar Co. Ltd. (NYSE: LDK) is up 14.3% at $1.84. The solar maker is getting a boost from reports that demand is catching up with supply and prices are strengthening. More coverage on solar short interest here.
Stay tuned for Wednesday. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard is giving a speech. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 7:00 a.m. – Mortgage Bankers Association purchase applications
- 8:30 a.m. – Retail sales
- 8:30 a.m. – Import and export prices
- 10:00 a.m. – Business inventories
- 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report
- 1:00 p.m. – 10-year note auction