US equities opened strongly this morning and managed to maintain solid gains throughout the day. The in-line earnings report last night from Alcoa Inc. (NYSE: AA) and higher commodity prices — based on a weaker dollar — led markets higher in the morning. The S&P 500 posted a new five-month high just before noon today. Today’s auction of 3-year Treasuries was strong, with the highest demand for dollars since May 2010. Volumes were not as heavy as might have been expected though. Crude oil is higher today, with WTI up 0.88% at $102.20/barrel and Brent up 0.64% at $113.17/barrel. Gold is also up more than $26, at $1,634.50.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up nearly 70 points to 12,462.47 (0.56%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 26 points (0.97%) to 2,702.50, and the S&P 500 rose 0.89% or more than 11 points to 1,292.08.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) maintained as ‘top tech/semiconductor’ pick at Credit Suisse; Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) cut from ‘neutral’ to ‘underperform’ at BofA/ML; Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) reiterated as ‘buy’ and estimates raised at Argus; The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) cut to ‘equal-weight’ at Barclays; and Macy’s Inc. (NYSE: M) reiterated as ‘outperform’ and price target raised from $32 to $36 at Credit Suisse.

Earnings reports of note since markets closed yesterday include: Alcoa is up 0.27% at $9.45; Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX) is up more than 13% at $8.38; and BSD Medical Corp. (NASDAQ: BSDM) is down more than -7% at $2.09. After markets close today Synnex Corp. (NYSE: SNX) reports earnings and tomorrow’s earnings schedule includes Lennar Corp. (NYSE: LEN) and Supervalu Inc. (NYSE: SVU).

Other standouts from today include the following stocks:

WebMD Health Corp. (NASDAQ: WBMD) is down more than -28% at $26.41, after posting a new 52-week low of $25.01 earlier today. The web-based healthcare company’s CEO resigned, the search for an acquirer was terminated, and the revenue outlook for 2012 was lowered.

Complete Genomics Inc. (NASDAQ: GNOM) is down nearly -26% at $2.88. The biotechnology company shipped fewer genomes than expected in the fourth quarter.

Idenix Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: IDIX) is up more than 25% at $12.10, a new 52-week high. The drug maker continues to bask in the reflected glow of yesterday’s takeover of Inhibitex Inc. (NASDAQ: INHX) by Bristol Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY).

Tiffany & Co. (NYSE: TIF) is down more than -10% at $59.97. The company reported weak earnings and a lower forecast this morning.

Liz Claiborne Inc. (NYSE: LIZ) is down more than -13% at $8.63. The clothing company’s CFO resigned and the company lowered 2012 revenue estimates.

Stay tuned for Wednesday. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, and Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser are giving speeches. Here are the noteworthy events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 7:00 a.m. – Mortgage Bankers Association purchase applications
  • 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report
  • 1:00 p.m. – 10-year Treasury note auction
  • 2:00 p.m. – Federal Reserve Beige Book released

Paul Ausick

Sponsored: Tips for Investing

A financial advisor can help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of investment properties. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Investing in real estate can diversify your portfolio. But expanding your horizons may add additional costs. If you’re an investor looking to minimize expenses, consider checking out online brokerages. They often offer low investment fees, helping you maximize your profit.