Closing Bell for Thursday on Wall Street: Markets Stall on Japan Losses

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U.S. equity markets opened sharply lower this morning, taking a lead from Japan’s Nikkei, which fell more than 7% for the day. Japan’s government bond yields spiked until the Bank of Japan intervened. Japan-focused ETFs got clobbered today. Nearly missed in the flurry surrounding the Japanese debacle was the decline in China’s manufacturing PMI<<LINK>>. Europe followed Japan’s lead as well, even though eurozone manufacturing PMI rose. The bad news is that the eurozone’s manufacturing PMI continues to contract. In the U.S., new claims for jobless benefits fell, while data on new home sales and house prices continued to improve. U.S. equities ended the day with a small loss after the dust settled.

The U.S. dollar index is trading down 0.73% today, now at 83.7360. The GSCI commodity index is down 0.8% at 625.96. WTI crude oil closed down fractionally, at $94.25 a barrel. Brent crude trades down 0.1% at $102.46 a barrel. Natural gas is up 1.7% today at about $4.26 per million BTUs following a relatively small addition to the nation’s inventories<<LINK>>. Gold settled up 1.8% today at $1,391.80.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down nearly 13 points to 15,294.50 (-0.08%), the NASDAQ fell nearly 4 points (-0.11%) to 3,459.42, and the S&P 500 fell -0.29% or nearly 5 points to 1,650.53.

There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including:

  • Sanmina Corp. (NASDAQ: SANM) cut to ‘sell’ at Deutsche Bank;
  • Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) started as ‘underperform’ at Credit Suisse;
  • Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ: STX) raised to ‘buy’ at Deutsche Bank;
  • VeriFone Systems Inc. (NYSE: PAY) raised to ‘buy’ at SunTrust; and
  • Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. (NYSE: DO) raised to ‘neutral’ at Goldman Sachs.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night have resulted in some price changes for reporting companies as of the last half hour of trading today:

Before markets open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear earnings from Aeropostale Inc. (NYSE: ARO), America’s Car-Mart Inc. (NASDAQ: CRMT), Gap Inc. (NYSE: GPS), Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (NASDAQ: MRVL), Pandora Media Inc. (NYSE: P), Ross Stores Inc. (NASDAQ: ROST), Salesforce.com Inc. (NYSE: CRM), Zumiez Inc. (NASDAQ: ZUMZ), Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE: ANF), and Foot Locker Inc. (NYSE: FL).

Some standouts among heavily traded stocks today include:

Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) is up 16.8% at $24.79 after posting a new 52-week high of $24.91 earlier today. The printer and computer maker posted better-than-expected earnings last night.

MannKind Corp. (NASDAQ: MNKD) is up 8.1% at $6.74 after posting a new 52-week high of $6.99 earlier today. The biopharmaceuticals firm continues to see shares rise following a report yesterday that the company is a likely takeover target.

Cirrus Logic Inc. (NASDAQ: CRUS) is down 19.8% at $17.70. The semiconductor maker lowered its outlook, this morning.

Stay tuned for Friday. We have noted the following event on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 8:30 a.m. – Durable goods orders
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