U.S. equity markets opened slightly higher this morning even following a larger than expected rise in new claims for jobless benefits in the U.S. The final revision to fourth quarter 2012 GDP growth came in at 0.4%, a bit higher than expected (more coverage here). In Europe, Cypriot banks reopened without much excitement (more coverage here), retail sales fell in the eurozone and the Bank of Italy said the country’s GDP contraction in 2013 may be larger than expected. In Asia, China is expected to impose constraints on property sales in some cities and already has imposed more regulation on wealth management firms. Japanese retail sales also fell more than expected. The S&P 500 index closed at a new all-time high today.
The U.S. dollar index fell 0.35% today, now at 82.928. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.5% at 657.78, with commodities prices mostly lower today on a USDA report that corn plantings will outpace last year (more coverage here). WTI crude oil closed up 0.7% today, at $97.23 a barrel, and closed out the month up 5.6% and the first quarter of the year up 5.9%. Brent crude trades up 0.3% at $109.98 a barrel. Natural gas is down 1.5% today at about $4.01 per million BTUs after a larger than expected storage withdrawal (more coverage here). Gold settled down 0.7% today at $1,595.70 an ounce, up 1.1% for the month, but down 4.8% for the first quarter.
Note the U.S. markets are closed tomorrow in observance of Good Friday.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 49 points to 14,575.85 (0.34%), the NASDAQ rose 11 points (0.34%) to 3,267.52, and the S&P 500 rose 0.40% or more than 6 points to 1,569.06.
There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE) started as ‘buy’ with a price target of $70 at Goldman Sachs; Biogen Idec Inc. (NASDAQ: BIIB) started as ‘outperform’ at JMP Securities; Ryanair Holdings PLC (NASDAQ: RYAAY) raised to ‘buy’ at Citigroup; Vanguard Health Systems Inc. (NYSE: VHS) cut to ‘market perform’ at Wells Fargo; and Lululemon Athletica Inc. (NASDAQ: LULU) started as ‘neutral’ at Goldman Sachs.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in several price moves today, including these: The ExOne Co. (NASDAQ: XONE) is up 7.7% at $32.94 after posting a new 52-week high of $34.27 earlier today (more coverage here); Paychex Inc. (NASDAQ: PAYX) is up 0.6% at $34.97 after posting a new 52-week high of $35.18 earlier today; Synnex Corp. (NYSE: SNX) is down 9.6% at $36.96; Texas Industries Inc. (NYSE: TXI) is down 5.9% at $62.12; Endeavor Mining Corp. (NYSE: END) is down 4.8% at $2.95; Finish Line Inc. (NASDAQ: FINL) is up 6.6% at $19.49; GameStop Corp. (NYSE: GME) is up 5.4% at $27.88 after posting a new 52-week high of $28.67 earlier today; Mosaic Co. (NYSE: MOS) is up 1.6% at $59.61 (more coverage here); BlackBerry (NYSE: BBRY) is down 1.4% at $14.37 (more coverage here); and Winnebago Industries Inc. (NYSE: WGO) is down 5.5% at $20.67.
Some standouts among heavily traded stocks today include:
Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S) is up 2.4% at $6.19. The mobile carrier paid out another $80 million to Clearwire Corp. (NASDAQ: CLWR), a clear sign that a counter-offer from Dish Network Corp (NASDAQ: DISH) is likely to either disappear or be rejected.
Stay tuned for Monday. U.S. markets are closed tomorrow, but two planned data releases are on the schedule. On Monday, carmakers will report new vehicle sales for March. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 8:30 a.m. – Personal income and spending
- 9:55 a.m. – University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters consumer sentiment index
- 8:58 a.m. – PMI manufacturing index
- 10:00 a.m. – Construction spending
- 11:30 a.m. – 3- and 6-month bill auctions
Have a great, long weekend!