Markets opened slightly lower this morning and spent the morning trying to decide on a direction. The Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index rose more than expected, but even that was not enough to charge up investors. In the early afternoon, advances were leading declines on the NYSE, while the status was just the reverse on NASDAQ. Both oil and gold prices were slightly lower after rising sharply yesterday. So far this month, markets are up a solid 13%.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up nearly more than 21 points to 12,230.35 (0.18%), the NASDAQ fell about -1.5 points (-0.05%) to2,737.15, and the S&P 500 rose 0.03% or about 0.47 points to 1,285.06.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including a raise for Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NYSE: AMD) to ‘outperform’ at Wells Fargo. First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) was maintained at ‘buy’ but the target price was cut to $90 at Argus; Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. (NYSE: POT) cut to ‘sector perform’ at Scotia; Pan American Silver Corp. (NASDAQ: PAAS) cut to ‘sector perform’ at CIBC; Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S) raised to ‘outperform’ at Macquarie; and Occidental Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: OXY) raised to ‘outperform’ with a new target price of $135 at Credit Suisse.

Here are today’s big post-earnings news reactions with prices during the last half-hour of trading: Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) is up 0.3%, at $109.99, two pennies short of a new 52-week high; Coinstar, Inc. (NASDAQ: CSTR) is down about -7.6%, at $48.91; Merck (NYSE: MRK) is up 2.3%, at $35.10; Baidu, Inc. (NASDAQ: BIDU) is up 4.33% (our coverage here), at $144.38; Weyerhaeuser Co. (NYSE: WY) is up 1.6%, at $18.23; and The Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc. (NYSE: IPG) is up 11.6%, at $9.94 (our coverage here).

Several other standouts from today follow …

Stillwater Mining Co. (NYSE: SWC) is up more than 27%, at $12.65. The company beat earnings estimates this morning, and has reiterated its production estimates for platinum and palladium for 2011. Stillwater recycled 133,500 ounces of platinum, palladium, and rhodium in the third quarter, up 70% from the same period a year ago.

Align Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ: ALGN) is up more than 34%, at $23.94. The company posted solid earnings for the third quarter and announced a $150 million stock buyback program. Align manufactures and sells Invisalign teeth straightening products. Inc. (NASDAQ: STMP) is up more than 25%, at $32.48 — a new 52-week high — following an outstanding earnings report. raised its non-GAAP EPS estimate for the second time this year, to $1.20-$1.40. The company originally estimated non-GAAP EPS of $0.85-$1.05.

Computer Programs and Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CPSI) are down more than -28%, at $51.10. The company missed both revenue and EPS estimates for the quarter, and the fourth-quarter outlook is also weak. The company’s $1.44/share dividend takes some of the sting out of the poor results.

Spansion Inc. (NYSE: CODE) is down more than -25%, at $10.46, after posting a new 52-week lower earlier today of $9.17. The company released a weaker fourth-quarter forecast and announced the closure of its plant in Kuala Lumpur as part of its effort to cut costs.

Digital River Inc. (NASDAQ: DRIV) is down more than -19%, at $18.52. The company’s third-quarter earnings were short of expectations and the fourth-quarter forecast was lowered.

Stay tuned for Monday.  We have noted the following events (all times Eastern):

9:45 a.m. — Chicago Purchasing Managers Index
3:00 p.m. — USDA farm prices

Paul Ausick

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