Markets opened lower today and stayed in negative territory until mid-afternoon. Car makers reported December sales throughout the day, with Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) and General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) both showing gains in the morning. Toyota Motor Co. (NYSE: TM) posted lower sales in the afternoon. Developments in Europe did nothing to boost shares today, with a new rights issue coming from Italy’s UniCredit and a requirement for additional reserves against bad loans coming in Spain. Crude oil gained on word that Europe is nearing a decision to stop crude imports from Iran, possibly sparking a confrontation in the Persian Gulf. WTI crude is up 0.25% at $103.22/barrel and Brent crude is up 1.34% at 113.63/barrel. Gold is up about 0.8% at $1,613.20.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up about 21 points to 12,418.57 (0.17%), the NASDAQ fell less than 1 point (-0.01%) to 2,648.36, and the S&P 500 rose 0.02% or less than 1 point to 1,277.31.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) added to ‘US Focus List’ at Credit Suisse; General Dynamics Corp. (NYSE: GD) raised to ‘overweight’ at JPMorgan; Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. (NASDAQ: GMCR) reiterated ‘buy’ with $94 target price at Canaccord Genuity; Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. (NYSE: POT) started as ‘underperform’ at National Bank; and Tivo Inc. (NASDAQ: TIVO) raised to ‘overweight’ at Evercore Partners.

Earnings reports of note since markets closed yesterday include: Unifirst Corp. (NYSE: UNF) is up more than 3% at $59.83; and Progress Software Corp. (NASDAQ: PRGS) is down more than -11% at $17.55. Tomorrow sees earnings from Constellation Brands Inc. (NYSE: STZ), Monsanto Co. (NYSE: MON), and Family Dollar Stores Inc. (NYSE: FDO) among others.

Other standouts from today include the following stocks:

LCA-Vision Inc. (NASDAQ: LCAV) is up more than 40% at $4.33. The laser vision correction system provider said that it performed more than 14,000 procedures in the fourth quarter, up 30% year-over-year.

Rare Element Resources Ltd. (AMEX: REE) is up more than 27% at $4.53. The rare earths miner announced that its resource at the company’s Bear Lodge project is 38% higher than previously believed.

Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) is up nearly 11% at $80.02. The video distributor reported that it streamed more than 2 billion hours of video in the fourth quarter. More details on this story are available here.

Acme Packet Inc. (NASDAQ: APKT) is down more than -19% at $25.65, after posting a new 52-week low of $25.20 early this morning. The networking company warned on earnings last night. We have more coverage here.

Life Partners Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: LPHI) is down more than -15% at $5.38. The life insurance company has been accused of accounting fraud by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

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

  • 7:30 a.m. – Challenger Gray & Christmas job-cut report
  • 8:15 a.m. – ADP employment report
  • 8:30 a.m. – Weekly initial unemployment benefits claims report
  • 10:00 a.m. – ISM non-manufacturing index
  • 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly natural gas report
  • 11:00 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report
  • 4:30 a.m. – Federal Reserve balance sheet and money supply reports

Paul Ausick

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