The three major US stock indexes opened higher this morning on the better-than-expected news on US GDP growth (our coverage here). The buying mood turning sour as the Nasdaq neared the 3,000 mark, a place it hasn’t visited in nearly 11 years. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s comments did not include anything unexpected, except perhaps the lack of an affirmation that the Fed would continue its accommodative monetary policy (our coverage here). Crude oil was higher today, with WTI crude up 0.5% at $107.07/barrel and Brent crude up 1.22% at $123.03/barrel. Gold settled down -4.3% at $1,711.30, it’s lowest point in more than a month.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down more than 53 points to 12,951.84(-0.41%), the NASDAQ fell nearly 20 points (-0.67%) to 2,966.89, and the S&P 500 fell -0.47% or about 6.5 points to 1,365.66.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) raised to ‘buy’ at Deutsche Bank; Williams Companies Inc. (NYSE: WMB) raised to ‘Conviction Buy List’ at Goldman Sachs (more coverage here); YRC Worldwide Inc. (NASDAQ: YRCW) maintained as ‘underperform’ but target price cut from $15 to $6; Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) cut to ‘neutral’ at Collins Stewart; and Apollo Group Inc. (NASDAQ: APOL) cut to ‘hold’ at Deutsche Bank.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night have led to some price changes as of the last half hour of trading today: First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) is down -12% at $32 after posting a new 52-week low of $31.86 earlier today (more coverage here and here); Vivus Inc. (NASDAQ: VVUS) is up 6.5% at $22.65 (more coverage here); Kodiak Oil & Gas Corp. (NYSE: KOG) is down -6.2% at $9.70; Ceasar’s Entertainment Corp. (NASDAQ: CZR) is up 3.9% at $11.28; Constellation Energy Partners LLC (NYSE: CEP) is up up 6.6% at $2.73; DiamondRock Hospitality Co. (NYSE: DRH) is down -3.5% at $9.94; Endeavor International Corp. (NYSE: END) is down -9.7% at $11.54; Staples Inc. (NASDAQ: SPLS) is down -8.6% at $14.63 (more coverage here); Joy Global Inc. (NYSE: JOY) is down -5.6% at $86.65 (more coverage here); and SemGroup Corp. (NYSE: SEMG) is up 1.53% at $28.55.

Other standouts from today include the following stocks:

Forward Industries Inc. (NASDAQ: FORD) is up about 22% at $2.88. The protective case maker has signed a partnership deal for a waterproof iPad case, and is certainly rising on the prospect of a new iPad 3 announcement next week from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL).

Gevo Inc. (NASDAQ: GEVO) is up more than 15% at $10.30. The biofuel maker reports earnings after markets close today. The run-up could have the same effect on the market following a weak report from Pacific Ethanol Inc. (NASDAQ: PEIX).

Quad Graphics Inc. (NYSE: QUAD) is up nearly 15% at $15.01. The printing company reported better-than-expected earnings this morning.

Vocus Inc. (NASDAQ: VOCS) is down about -40% at $13.50 after posting a new 52-week low of $13.10 earlier. The marketing and public relations software maker has acquired privately held iContact for $169 million in cash and stock.

SodaStream International Ltd. (NASDAQ: SODA) is down nearly -14% at $40.29. The beverage equipment maker reported what appear to be good earnings today. More coverage here.

Stay tuned for Thursday. Auto makers will be reporting February sales figures throughout the day. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, Cleveland Fed president Sandra Pianalto, Fed governor Sarah Bloom Raskin, Atlanta Fed president Dennis Lockhart, and San Francisco Fed president John Williams are giving speeches. We have noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 8:30 a.m. – New US unemployment benefits claims
  • 8:30 a.m. – US personal income and outlays report
  • 10:00 a.m. – Institute for Supply Management manufacturing index
  • 10:00 a.m. – Construction spending
  • 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly natural gas storage report
  • 4:30 p.m. – Federal Reserve balance sheet and money supply

Paul Ausick

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