US stock markets opened lower this morning and gradually lost ground throughout the day. A fractionally lower opening bell has translated to around a -0.6% loss on each of the major indexes about half an hour before closing. Last night’s downgrade of the sovereign debt of six European countries set the tone in both Asia and Europe, but by mid-day, a fairly weak report on US retail sales and a more modest than expected rise in business inventories kept share prices from rising. In the late afternoon, Eurozone leaders canceled tomorrow’s meeting on the Greek bailout saying that Greece had failed to meet several demands related to the proposed $172 billion bailout. Germany’s finance minister even displayed a “who cares?” attitude toward the possibility of a Greek default (our story here). Crude oil was mixed today, with larger early gains lost on the weak news and the stronger dollar. WTI crude rose 0.08% to $100.99/barrel and Brent crude rose 0.25% to $117.68/barrel. Gold was down -0.4%, settling at $1,717.70/ounce.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up about 4 points to 12,878.28 (0.03%), the NASDAQ rose less than 1 point (0.02%) to 2,931.83, and the S&P 500 fell -0.09% or just over 1 point to 1,350.5.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Arch Coal Inc. (NYSE: ACI) cut to ‘hold’ at Argus; Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) raised to ‘outperform’ and target price raised to $140 at Credit Suisse; Kinder Morgan Inc. (NYSE: KMI) raised to ‘buy’ at Deutsche Bank; Kinder Morgan Energy Partners L.P. (NYSE: KMP) raised to ‘buy’ at Deutsche Bank; and H.J. Heinz Co. (NYSE: HNZ) started as ‘underweight’ at Morgan Stanley.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night have led to some price changes as of the last half hour of trading today: Avon Products Inc. (NYSE: AVP) is up 1.2% at $17.74; Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (NYSE: GT) is down -5.7% at $13.18; Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NYSE: WPI) is up 3.8% at $59.89; Arbitron Inc. (NYSE: ARB) is up 4.4% at $36.94; BorgWarner Inc. (NYSE: BWA) is up 0.42% at $79.18; Capella Education Co. (NASDAQ: CPLA) is down -13.3% at $39.30; Fossil Inc. (NASDAQ: FOSL) is up nearly 13% at $118.02; Hospira Inc. (NYSE: HSP) is up 6.7% at $36.50; Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC) is down -0.23% at $47.91; and Zipcar Inc. (NASDAQ: ZIP) is down -13% at $13.99, a new 52-week low.

Other standouts from today include the following stocks:

Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. (NYSE: KORS) is up nearly 25% at $41.92 after posting a new high of $42.43 earlier today. The apparel company reported better-than-expected earnings today, and the shares have more than doubled since the company’s IPO in mid-December.

Syntroleum Corp. (NASDAQ: SYNM) is up up 20% at $1.32. The biodiesel maker’s joint venture with Tyson Foods Inc. (NYSE: TSN) has signed a deal to distribute synthetic diesel fuel.

Chelsea Therapeutics International Inc. (NASDAQ: CHTP) is up nearly 19% at $3.69. The company’s shares fell almost -40% yesterday, but bargain hunters can’t resist. We mentioned this possibility yesterday.

Energy Conversion Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: ENER) is down more than -80% to $0.29. The solar maker filed for bankruptcy this morning. We have more coverage here.

JinkoSolar Holding Co. Ltd. (NYSE: JKS) is down nearly -12% at $7.95. The solar panel maker is just one more victim among solar stocks today of a proposed cutback in Germany’s solar subsidies and the bankruptcy of ECD. More coverage here.

Stay tuned for Wednesday. Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher is giving a speech. We have noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 7:00 a.m. – Mortgage Bankers Association purchase applications
  • 8:30 a.m. – Empire State manufacturing survey
  • 9:15 a.m. – Industrial production
  • 10:00 a.m. – Housing market index
  • 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report
  • 2:00 p.m. – FOMC minutes released

Paul Ausick

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