24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell (VMW, YHOO, SNE, EA, SRE, DLPH, CALM, DMAN, SHLD, CSC, PARL, WHR, MHR)

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US equity markets rose rather steeply in the first hour of trading this morning, but weren’t able to sustain the momentum for long. Consumer confidence indexes rose this month, but home prices fell according to the Case-Shiller index report this morning. The lower housing prices combined with a weaker dollar index held down equities but boosted most commodities. A renewed threat from Iran to close the critical Strait of Hormuz helped push up crude oil prices. WTI crude rose 1.61% to $101.28 and Brent crude is up 0.93% at $108.96. Gold prices fell again today, to $1,594.80, off -0.70%. Last minute selling appears to have pushed the DJIA to a lower close today.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down about 2 points to 12,291.73 (-0.02%), the NASDAQ rose more than 6 points (0.25%) to 2,625.20, and the S&P 500 rose 0.01% or less than 1 point to 1,265.47.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including VMWare Inc. (NYSE: VMW) raised to ‘outperform’ at Oppenheimer; Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO) maintained ‘buy’ with a price target of $18 at BofA/Merrill Lynch; Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) Japanese target price cut by Barclays; Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA) maintained ‘buy’ with a $28 price target at BofA/Merrill Lynch; and Sempra Energy Inc. (NYSE: SRE) reiterated as ‘buy’ with a $61 target price at Argus. Delphi Automotive (NYSE: DLPH) received four ratings this morning: initiated as ‘outperform’ at Credit Suisse; started as ‘buy’ at BofA/Merrill Lynch; started as ‘overweight’ at JPMorgan; and started as ‘outperform’ at R.W. Baird.

Here are today’s post-earnings news reactions with prices during the last half-hour of trading: Cal-Maine Foods Inc. (NASDAQ: CALM) is up nearly 5% at $35.84; and DemandTec, Inc. (NASDAQ: DMAN), which is being acquired by IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), is down about -0.04% at $13.13. This is the beginning of a very light week for earnings.

Other standouts from today include the following stocks:

Sears Holding Co. (NASDAQ: SHLD) is down about -26% at $33.95, a new 52-week low. The department store has announced that it will miss its previous earnings forecast by at least 50% and that it will close another 100-120 stores. See more coverage here and here.

Computer Sciences Corp. (NYSE: CSC) is down more than -9% at $24.06. The technology and IT services company has said it may have to take a $1.5 billion writedown on a UK contract. More coverage here.

Parlux Fragrances Inc. (NASDAQ: PARL) is up more than 72% at $5.98, after posting a new 52-week high this morning of $6.60. The perfume maker is being acquired by Perfumania Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: PERF) for about $170 million.

Whirlpool Corp. (NYSE: WHR) is down more than -8% at $46.95. The appliance maker, which makes products for Sears, is caught in that company’s dismal announcement.

Magnum Hunter Resources Corp. (NYSE: MHR) is up nearly 19% at $5.54. The oil & gas producer has raised its production estimate from 10,000 barrels/day of oil equivalent to 12,500 barrels/day.

Stay tuned for Wednesday. Here are the noteworthy events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

7:00 a.m. – Mortgage Bankers Association purchase applications
11:30 a.m. – Four-week T-bill auction

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Paul Ausick