U.S. equity markets opened slightly higher this morning and managed to get within striking distance of five-year highs. There was little economic data released anywhere today, but what there was came out mixed. In Europe, the ZEW economic sentiment index rose more than expected in the eurozone. In Asia, no economic data was forthcoming at all today, the first trading day following a week-long closure of the Shanghai exchange in observance of the lunar new year holiday. In the U.S., the housing price index from the National Association of Home Builders ticked a bit lower, putting pressure on homebuilders’ stocks (more coverage here). Health insurance stocks fell on a proposal to lower 2014 Medicare and Medicaid co-payments (more coverage here).
The U.S. dollar index fell 0.18% today, now at 80.476. The GSCI commodity index is down 0.5% at 675.90, with commodities prices mixed again today. WTI crude oil closed up 0.8% today, at $96.66 a barrel. Brent crude trades down fractionally at $117.38 a barrel. Natural gas is up 3.7% today at about $3.27 per million BTUs. Gold settled down 0.3% today at $1,604.20 an ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up about 54 points to 14,035.75 (0.39%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 22 points (0.68%) to 3,213.59, and the S&P 500 rose 0.73% or about 11 points to 1,530.91.
There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Gold Fields Inc. (NYSE: GFI) cut to ‘sell’ at Citigroup; Apache Corp. (NYSE: APA) cut to ‘neutral’ at Macquarie; Coinstar Inc. (NASDAQ: CSTR) cut to ‘underweight’ at J.P. Morgan; Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) raised to ‘outperform’ at KBW; and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) raised to ‘outperform’ at KBW.
Earnings reports since markets closed last Friday resulted in several price moves today, including these: America’s Car-Mart Inc. (NASDAQ: CRMT) is up 10.3% at $45.82; Express Scripts Holding Co. (NASDAQ: ESRX) is up 2% at $56.70 (more coverage here); NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI) is up 1% at $27.05 after posting a new 52-week high of $27.40 earlier today; and Windstream Corp. (NASDAQ: WIN) is up 0.9% at $9.01.
After markets close today and before they open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear from Analog Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: ADI), CF Industries Holdings Inc. (NYSE: CF), Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL), Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE: HLF), Avista Corp. (NYSE: AVA), Clean Harbors Inc. (NYSE: CLH), Dish Network Corp. (NASDAQ: DISH), Leap Wireless International Inc. (NASDAQ: LEAP), MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM), Sodastream International Ltd. (NASDAQ: SODA), and Toll Brothers Inc. (NYSE: TOL).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Office Depot Inc. (NYSE: ODP) is up 9.8% at $5.04 after posting a new 52-week high of $6.09 earlier today. The office supply retailer is said to be in merger talks with competitor OfficeMax Inc. (NYSE: OMX), which itself is up 19.6% at $12.86 after posting its own new high of $14.08. Even larger competitor Staples Inc. (NASDAQ: SPLS) is up 12.9% at $14.62 on the news. More coverage here.
Novogen Ltd. (NASDAQ: NVGN) is up 227.3% at $6.84 after posting a new 52-week high of $7.60 earlier today. The Australia-based biotech company revealed highly positive results in a test of it ovarian cancer treatment.
SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWR) is up 16.8% at $13.37 after posting a new 52-week high of $13.66 earlier today. The solar panel maker is leading solar stocks higher as investors respond to some generally positive news in the sector.
Stay tuned for Wednesday. We have noted the following events on Tuesday’s schedule (all times Eastern):
7:00 a.m. – Mortgage Bankers Association purchase applications
8:30 a.m. – Housing starts
8:30 a.m. – Producer price index
11:30 a.m. – 4-week bill auction
2:00 p.m. – FOMC minutes released