U.S. equity markets opened a bit higher this morning following a middling earnings report from Alcoa Inc. (NYSE: AA) last night (more coverage here). Economic data was minimal in the U.S., but in Asia China reported that its consumer price index rose 2.1%, somewhat lower than expected and its producer price index fell 1.9%, a bit more than expected (more coverage here). In Europe, Germany reported a larger-than-expected trade surplus, but both France and the U.K. reported higher-than-expected deficits. In the U.S., the report on wholesale trade was mixed, with sales up 1.7% and inventories down 0.3% (more coverage here).
The U.S. dollar index is trading down 0.51% today, now at 82.321. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.7% at 632.31. WTI crude oil closed up 0.9% today, at $94.20 a barrel. Brent crude trades up 1.7% at $106.44 a barrel, following reports of an earthquake in Iran (more coverage here). Natural gas is down 1.4% today at about $4.03 per million BTUs. Gold settled up 0.9% today at $1,586.70 an ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up about 60 points to 14,673.46 (0.41%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 16 points (0.48%) to 3,237.86, and the S&P 500 rose 0.35% or more than 5 points to 1,568.59.
There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) maintained as ‘outperform’ with a price target of $600 at Credit Suisse; Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (NYSE: LGF) started as ‘buy’ with a price target of $31 at Argus; First Republic Bank (NYSE: FRC) started on “Conviction Buy” list with a price target of $47 at Goldman Sachs; Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) maintained as ‘hold’ at Argus; and Stratasys Ltd. (NASDAQ: SSYS) started as ‘buy’ with a price target of $84 at Canaccord Genuity.
The only earnings results of note since last night came from Alcoa, which we’ve already noted. Shares are trading up 0.4% at $8.42.
Before markets open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear from PriceSmart Inc. (NASDAQ: PSMT), Carmax Inc. (NYSE: KMX), Constellation Brands Inc. (NYSE: STZ), Family Dollar Stores Inc. (NYSE: FDO), Jinkosolar Holding Co. Ltd. (NYSE: JKS), and Titan Machinery Inc. (NASDAQ: TITN).
Some standouts among heavily traded stocks today include:
First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) is up 46.9% at $39.71 after posting a new 52-week high of $41.00 earlier today. The solar panel maker guided 2013 revenues and earnings above estimates and shares soared, pulling other solar stocks along for the ride. More coverage here.
Vale SA (NYSE: VALE) is up 5.6% at $18.38. The world’s largest iron ore miner received an upgrade today and is expected to benefit from a proposed change in Brazilian tax law. Other basic materials stocks also posted gains today, including Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (NYSE: FCX) and Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE: CLF).
Stay tuned for Wednesday. Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota and Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher are giving speeches. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 7:00 a.m. – Mortgage Bankers Association weekly purchase applications
- 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report
- 1:00 p.m. – 10-year note auction
- 2:00 p.m. – FOMC minutes
- 2:00 p.m. – U.S. Treasury budget