US markets opened up slightly this morning and have maintained a slight positive tone for most of the day. Today marks the unofficial beginning of another earnings season, with Alcoa kicking things off after markets close today. There was little substantive news out of Europe other than France and Germany have agreed to propose financial transaction tax which has no chance of being enacted. European markets were mixed today as were Asian markets. Crude oil is lower today, with WTI down -0.3% at $101.26/barrel and Brent down -0.84% at $112.11/barrel. Gold is also down less than half a point, at $1,609.80.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up nearly 33 points to 12,392.54 (0.26%), the NASDAQ rose more than 2 points (0.09%) to 2,676.56, and the S&P 500 rose 0.23% or nearly 3 points to 1,280.70.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST) cut to ‘underperform’ at Bernstein; Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) reiterated as ‘buy’ at Goldman Sachs; Akamai Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: AKAM) cut to ‘sell’ from ‘neutral’ at Citigroup; Pandora Media Inc. (NYSE: P) started as ‘buy’ at Needham; Southern Copper Co. (NYSE: SCCO) cut to ‘hold’ at Deutsche Bank; and Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK) downgraded to ‘hold’ at Jefferies.

Earnings reports of note since markets closed Friday include: Acuity Brands Inc. (NYSE: AYI) is up nearly 9% at $54.79; and Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CBST) is down -0.55% at $39.95. After markets close today bellwether Alcoa Inc. (NYSE: AA) is expected to report an EPS loss of -$0.02.

Other standouts from today include the following stocks:

Inhibitex Inc. (NASDAQ: INHX) is up more than 140% at $23.70 after posting a new 52-week high of $24.08 earlier today. The drug company has agreed to be acquired by Bristol Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) for $2.5 billion ($26/share in cash).

Pansoft Co. Ltd. (NASDAQ: PSOF) is up nearly 56% at $3.13. The Chinese enterprise software company received a buyout offer from Timesway Group Ltd, which is controlled by Pansoft’s chairman, for $3.76/share for the shares Timesway does not already own.

Idenix Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: IDIX) is up more than 36% at $9.59 after posting a new 52-week high of $10.39 earlier today. The drug maker’s hepatitis C drug got a postive report on an interim drug trial, the same categoy of drug made by Inhibitex. More coverage here.

Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) is up more than 14% at $98.62. The video rental and streaming company launched its streaming service in the UK and Ireland today. We have more coverage here.

Theravance Inc. (NASDAQ: THRX) is down more than -19% at $16.27. The biopharmaceutical firm reported that a new drug to treat asthma and other pulmonary diseases performed no better than an existing drug in a clinical trial.

Lantronix Inc. (NASDAQ: LTRX) is up more than 28% at $2.95. The networking products maker launched new wireless printing products aimed at devices that use the iOS operating system software from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL).

Stay tuned for Tuesday. San Francisco Fed President John Williams and Kansas City Fed President Esther George are giving speeches. Here are the noteworthy events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 7:30 a.m. – NFIB small business optimism index
  • 11:30 a.m. – 4- and 52-week Treasury bill auctions
  • 1:00 p.m. – 3-year Treasury note auction

Paul Ausick

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