U.S. equity markets opened lower this morning following a number of disappointing data releases in Europe and Asia. Eurozone PMI remains on the pessimistic side, with a reading of 47.9, and the unemployment rate ticked higher to 11.9% (more coverage here). Italy’s debt-to-GDP ratio is at its highest level in 20 years, and U.K. PMI came in well below expectations. In Asia, China’s PMI came in just into the optimism zone with a reading of 50.1, down from a previous reading of 50.4. In the U.S. the report on personal income and savings disappointed investors (more coverage here), while both the ISM manufacturing index and consumer sentiment index posted solid gains (more coverage here). But stocks could do little more than remain in positive territory on the day when a mandatory cut of $85 billion in the federal budget went into effect.
The U.S. dollar index rose 0.44% today, now at 82.294. The GSCI commodity index is down 0.3% at 648.21, with commodities prices mixed today. WTI crude oil closed down 1.5% today, at $90.68 a barrel, down 2.6% for the week and the lowest closing price since December 24th. Brent crude trades down 0.9% at $110.36 a barrel. Natural gas is down 0.8% today at about $3.46 per million BTUs. Gold settled down 0.4% today at $1,572.30 an ounce, the lowest close since last July, but only fractionally below last week’s close.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 35 points to 14,090.04 (0.25%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 10 points (0.30%) to 3,169.74, and the S&P 500 rose 0.24% or nearly 4 points to 1,518.24.
There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Deutsche Bank AG (NYSE: DB) cut to ‘sell’ at Goldman Sachs; Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) cut to ‘hold’ at Argus; Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE: DRI) cut to ‘neutral’ at UBS; Anheuser-Busch InBev SA (NYSE: BUD) raised to ‘outperform’ at Credit Suisse; and Autodesk Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) raised to ‘buy’ with a price target of $45 at Jefferies.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in several price moves today, including these: Body Central Corp. (NASDAQ: BODY) is up 1.6% at $7.83; Cell Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: CTIC) is down 10.6% at $1.20; Clean Energy Fuels Corp. (NASDAQ: CLNE) is up 2.4% at $12.88; Deckers Outdoor Corp. (NASDAQ: DECK) is up 15.6% at $46.72; Gap Inc. (NYSE: GPS) is up 2.6% at $33.78; Molycorp Inc. (NYSE: MCP) is down 5.4% at $5.81; Palo Alto Networks Inc. (NYSE: PANW) is down 3.9% at $58.73; SandRidge Energy Co. (NYSE: SD) is down 4.4% at $5.45; and Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY) is up 3.4% at $16.96 (more coverage here).
Before markets open Monday morning we are scheduled to hear from Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ARNA), Boyd Gaming Corp. (NYSE: BYD), Stratasys Ltd. (NASDAQ: SSYS), and Transocean Ltd. (NYSE: RIG).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
MGIC Investment Corp. (NYSE: MTG) is up 27.5% at $3.80. The mortgage insurer posted another loss yesterday, but investors appear to think that the insurers will get well when Uncle Sam plays a smaller role in the housing market. More coverage on today’s spiky stocks here.
Icahn Enterprises LP (NASDAQ: IEP) is down 15.3% at $60.57. The Carl Icahn-controlled MLP issued more shares (actually, common interests) at a 13% discount this morning. Like MTG, another of today’s spiky stocks.
Stay tuned for Monday. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
11:30 a.m. – 3- and 6-month bill auctions
Have a great weekend!