Equities started the day with a solid move up, but lost momentum after about half an hour. The downward move lasted into the late morning, at which time stocks started a fitful climb back up. There was no big news to speak of, although the Italian prime minister lost a budget vote which may lead to vote of confidence in his leadership. Crude oil is up about $0.75/barrel and gold is up about $6.40/ounce, to near $1,800/ounce. Commodities are mostly higher as the dollar weakened. Stocks finished the day near session highs.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 101 points to 12,170.18 (0.84%), the NASDAQ rose more than 32 points (1.2%) to 2,727.49, and the S&P 500 rose 1.17% or more than 14 points to 1,275.93.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Aixtron SE (NASDAQ: AIXG), which we noted in our story on LED lighting this morning and was raised to ‘equal weight’ at Morgan Stanley. Other changes included AstraZeneca PLC (NYSE: AZN) cut to ‘underweight’ at Morgan Stanley; Honeywell International (NYSE: HON) raised to ‘buy’ at Citigroup; Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) reiterated as ‘buy’ and target price raised to $95 at Argus; Plains All-America Pipeline L.P. (NYSE: PAA) raised to ‘buy’ at Wells Fargo; and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) cut to ‘neutral’ at BofA/ML.

Here are today’s big post-earnings news reactions with prices during the last half-hour of trading: Fuel Tech, Inc. (NASDAQ: FTEK) is up about 22%, at $6.63; Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: IRDM) is up nearly 16%, at $7.34; Exide Technologies (NASDAQ: XIDE) is down more than -32%, at $3.04, after posting a new 52-week low of $2.98 earlier today; WMS Industries Inc. (NYSE: WMS) is down nearly -17%, at $18.25; James River Coal Corp. (NASDAQ: JRCC) is down nearly -9%, at $9.45; and Procera Networks, Inc. (AMEX: PKT) is up nearly 21%, at $14.31, after posting a new 52-week high earlier today of $14.38.

Several other standouts from today are as follows…

Republic Airways Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: RJET)  is up more than 57%, at $4.24. The company said that it is looking at selling or spinning off its Frontier Airlines unit.

Opexa Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: OPXA) is up nearly 33%, to $1.37. The company announced that its drug treatment for multiple sclerosis has received the Fast Track designation from the FDA.

Dynegy Inc. (NYSE: DYN) is up more than 28%, at $3.79. The utility company has said that several of its units have filed for bankruptcy. We covered the unusual bankruptcy boost in more detail earlier today.

Targacept, Inc. (NASDAQ: TRGT) is down nearly -59%, at $7.75, a new 52-week low. The company announced this morning that its anti-depressant drug failed a recent first phase trial.

McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants Inc. (NASDAQ: MSSR) is up more than 27%, at $8.65. The company has accepted a buyout offer of $8.75/share in cash from Landry’s Inc.

Solazyme, Inc. (NASDAQ: SZYM) is up more than 17%, at $10.98. The company has signed tentative contracts for 90% of its feedstock through 2015. We covered potential upside in the biofuel sector earlier this week.

Stay tuned for Wednesday. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke is giving a speech in the morning and Federal Reserve governor Daniel Tarullo gives a speech in the afternoon. We have noted the following events (all times Eastern):

  • 7:00 a.m. – Mortgage Bankers Association purchase applications
  • 9:30 a.m. – Wholesale trade report
  • 10:30 p.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report
  • 1:00 p.m. – US Treasury 10-year note auction

Paul Ausick

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