Markets opened slightly lower in the US this morning, but picked up steam in the morning and continued to rise, if slowly, for the rest of the day. The tech sector showed the most strength, with semiconductor stocks rising sharply and pushing the NASDAQ Composite index up more than 1.4% about half an hour before the closing bell. Financial stocks also did well today, and the euro rose back above $1.28 following a report that the IMF wants to increase its lending capacity to around $885 billion. Crude is mixed today, with WTI up fractionally at $100.78/barrel and Brent down -0.65% at $110.81/barrel. Gold rose as well today to $1,658.90.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up nearly 97 points to 12,578.95 (0.78%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 42 points (1.53%) to 2,769.71, and the S&P 500 rose 1.11% or more than 14 points to 1,308.04.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK) cut to ‘hold’ at Brean Murray; Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) cut to ‘market perform’ at Wells Fargo; The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) cut to ‘market perform’ at BMO Capital; Cheniere Energy Inc. (AMEX: LNG) started as ‘outperform’ with a $13.50 target price at Credit Suisse; and Carnival Corp. (NYSE: CCL) maintained as ‘hold’ but estimates cut at Argus.

Earnings reports since markets closed yesterday have led to some price changes as of the last half hour of trading today: Cree Inc. (NASDAQ: CREE) is up 4.3% at $24.33; The Charles Schwab Corp. (NYSE: SCHW) is down -1.3% at $12.00; Fastenal Co. (NASDAQ: FAST) is down -2.8% at $45.48; Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) is up 7.5% at $105.03; and State Street Corp. (NYSE: STT) is down -7% at $39.72.

Other standouts from today include the following stocks:

Euro Tech Holdings Co. Ltd. (NASDAQ: CLWT) is up nearly 53% at $3.91. The Hong Kong-based company has announced an 11-for-2 reverse stock split.

Net 1 UEPS Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: UEPS) is up more than 33% at $8.96. The South African software maker has announced a 5-year deal with the government’s social security agency.

Majesco Entertainment Co. (NASDAQ: COOL) is down more than -27% at $2.17. The video game maker forecast higher sales and marketing costs in 2012.

Ku6 Media Co. Ltd. (NASDAQ: KUTV) is down nearly -18% at $2.71. The Chinese online video company rose more than 150% yesterday on the announcement of deal with Google. Today’s fall is likely due to profit-taking.

We also noted 10 stocks that posted new all-time highs today. These include Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD), and Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE). See our coverage here.

Stay tuned for Thursday. We have noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 8:30 a.m. – Consumer price index
  • 8:30 a.m. – Housing starts
  • 8:30 a.m. – Initial unemployment benefits claims
  • 10:00 a.m. – Philadelphia Federal Reserve business outlook survey
  • 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly natural gas inventory report
  • 11:00 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report
  • 4:30 p.m. – Federal Reserve balance sheet and money supply

Paul Ausick