Stocks opened higher this morning following upbeat reports on unemployment claims and new housing starts. With a little more than a half hour left in today’s session, all three indexes have made solid gains today and remain near daily highs. Volume has been quite light, with less than 500 million shares traded today. Lack of news from Europe is probably keeping many investors on the sidelines. The dollar has lost all the gains it started today with. The dollar index is down -0.42% at 79.394, after starting the day up over 80. Crude oil is higher today, with WTI crude up 0.51% at $102.32 and Brent up 1.13% at $120.27. We have more coverage of the jump in Brent prices here and the impact of rising gasoline prices here.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 123 points to 12,904.01 (0.96%), the NASDAQ rose more than 44 points (1.51%) to 2,959.85, and the S&P 500 rose 1.1% or nearly 15 points to 1,358.05.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) cut to ‘equal-weight’ at Morgan Stanley; Deere & Co. (NYSE: DE) cut to ‘market perform’ at Wells Fargo; Nvidia Corp. (NASDAQ: NVDA) cut to ‘neutral’ at BofA/ML; Lorillard Inc. (NYSE: LO) started as ‘buy’ at Jefferies; and MEMC Electronic Materials Inc. (NYSE: WFR) raised to ‘hold’ at Jefferies.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night have led to some price changes as of the last half hour of trading today: Advance Auto Parts Inc. (NYSE: AAP) is up 7.3% at $85.20 after posting a new 52-week high of $86.30; Apache Corp. (NYSE: APA) is up 0.14% at $107.82; Barrick Gold Corp. (NYSE: ABX) is up 1.24% at $48.02; DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV) is down -1.9% at $45.41; Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE: DUK) is up 1.53% at $21.19; General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) is up 9% at $27.17; Molson Coors Brewing Co. (NYSE: TAP) is up 3% at $45.18; Strayer Education Inc. (NASDAQ: STRA) is down -8% at $105.81; and PF Chang’s China Bistro Inc. (NASDAQ: PFCB) is up 2% at $35.35.

Other standouts from today include the following stocks:

Jingwei International Ltd. (NASDAQ: JNGW) is up more than 43% at $2.08. The Chinese software company is being taken private.

Advance America, Cash Advance Centers Inc. (NYSE: AEA) is up more than 32% at $10.46 after posting a new 52-week high of $10.55 early this morning. The cash advance provider is being acquired by Mexico’s Grupo Elektra for $10.50/share, for a total price of about $655 million.

HyperDynamics Corp. (NYSE: HDY) is down nearly -30% at $1.42 after posting a new 52-week low of $1.01 earlier this morning. The independent oil & gas exploration and production company reported only non-commercial quantities of hydrocarbons at its offshore West African field.

PMFG Inc. (NASDAQ: PMFG) is down nearly -20% at $16.85. The machinery maker has announced a secondary offering of 2.6 million shares at $16/share.

Avis Budget Group Inc. (NYSE: CAR) is down nearly -16% at $12.28. The car rental company posted an unexpected loss in the fourth quarter.

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

  • 8:30 a.m. – Consumer price index
  • 10:00 a.m. – Leading economic indicators

Paul Ausick

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