The markets opened lower this morning and not until mid-afternoon were equities able to put a mark above yesterday’s close. European stocks traded mixed all day, and that coupled with rising crude prices could have held the markets in check. Crude prices are upmore than 3% so far today, at about $102.55 for WTI crude. The good news is that the spread between WTI and Brent has narrowed to $9/barrel. Because US gasoline prices are now pegged to Brent, pump prices could rise only moderately as WTI continues to close the gap. The dollar is a bit stronger today as well, leading to lower prices among commodities, with wheat off by about -2.5%.The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down more than 190 points to 11,905.19 (-1.57%), the NASDAQ fell more than 46 points (-1.73%) to 2,639.61, and the S&P 500 fell about -1.66% or nearly 21 points to 1,236.92.There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL), which was maintained at ‘underperform’ at Credit Suisse and reiterated at ‘buy’ with a $22 price target at Argus. Other action included Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc. (NYSE: DKS) added to the Conviction Buy list at Goldman Sachs; Research in Motion Ltd. (NASDAQ: RIMM) raised to ‘neutral’ at Goldman Sachs; Activision Blizzard Inc. (NASDAQ: ATVI) reiterated as ‘buy’ with an $18 price target at Argus; and TIBCO Software Inc. (NASDAQ: TIBX) started with ‘market perform’ by BMO Capital and as ‘outperform’ at JMP Securities.Here are today’s big post-earnings news reactions with prices during the last half-hour of trading: Dell Inc. is down about -3%, at $15.16; Zoom Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: ZOOM) is down about -19%, at $1.39; Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE: ANF) is down about -14.7%, at $47.50; Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) is down about -0.1%, at $53.11; and Spectrum Brands Holdings Inc. (NYSE: SPB) is down -7.8%, at $23.39. We covered Target, Spectrum, and A&F earnings earlier today.

Several other standouts from today are as follows…

Valero Energy Corp. (NYSE: VLO) is down nearly -9%, at $22.67. Valero and other refiners’ stocks got hit with a narrowing of the gap between WTI and Brent crudes, as well as an announcement by Enbridge Inc. (NYSE: ENB) that it is buying a 50% stake in the Seaway pipeline from ConocoPhillips Corp. (NYSE: COP) and reversing the pipeline’s flow to carry 150,000 barrels/day of crude from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Gulf Coast.

Western Refining Inc. (NYSE: WNR) is down more than -13%, at $13.47, and Marathon Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: MPC) is down about -11%, at $32.91.

Novagold Resources Inc. (AMEX: NG) is up more than 23.5%, at $10-.89. The company has appointed a new CEO to start in January and also announced that it would spin-off a subsidiary, NovaCopper, to current NovaGold shareholders.

Pacific Ethanol Inc. (NASDAQ: PEIX) is up more than 3%, at $1.37. The company announced that it has fully retired $35 million in senior convertible notes.

Amtech Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: ASYS) is down more than -17%, at $8.59. The company issued a statement that it expects to post $21-$23 million in sales for the third quarter, where analysts had been expecting revenue of $50 million.

Unilife Corp. (NASDAQ: UNIS) is down about -12.5%, at $4.17. The company priced a secondary stock offering of 8.25 million shares at $4.35, well below yesterday’s closing price of $4.76.

Stay tuned for Thursday. Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank president Sandra Pianalto and New York Fed president William Dudley are giving speeches tomorrow afternoon. Here’s a list of other noteworthy events (all times Eastern):

  • 8:30 a.m. – Housing starts
  • 8:30 a.m. – Initial unemployment benefits claims
  • 10.00 a.m. – Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank’s October business outlook survey
  • 10:00 a.m. – E-commerce retail sales
  • 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly natural gas status report
  • 1:00 p.m. – 10-year TIPS auction
  • 4:30 p.m. – Federal Reserve balance sheet and money supply report
Paul Ausick

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