The three major US equities indexes opened higher this morning after another (small) drop in new unemployment benefits claims and a good, but smaller-than-expected, rise in personal income and spending data (our coverage here). Lower-than-expected ISM manufacturing data was countered by generally good reports from retailers on February same-store sales (our coverage here). By mid-afternoon, the DJIA turned south and has given back more than 50 points though the average still remains in positive territory for the day. Crude oil is up sharply today, with WTI crude closing up 1.7% at $108.84/barrel and Brent crude up more than 4% at $127.70/barrel. Gold settled up 0.6% at $1,722.20/ounce.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 28 points to 12,980.30 (0.22%), the NASDAQ rose more than 22 points (0.74%) to 2,988.97, and the S&P 500 rose 0.62% or more than 8 points to 1,374.09.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) maintained ‘buy’ but target price lowered to $50 at Argus (more coverage here); Mastercard Inc. (NYSE: MA) started as ‘neutral’ at UBS; Walgreen Co. (NYSE: WAG) cut to ‘underperform’ at BofA/ML; Wendy’s Co. (NYSE: WEN) cut to ‘neutral’ at Janney; and SandRidge Energy Inc. (NYSE: SD) cut to ‘sell’ at Canaccord Genuity.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night have led to some price changes as of the last half hour of trading today: Cal Dive International Inc. (NYSE: DVR) is up 8.8% at $3.16; Edison International (NYSE: EIX) is up 1.9% at $42.65 after posting a new 52-week high of $44.40 earlier today; Nektar Therapeutics (NASDAQ: NKTR) is up 2.4% at $7.35; Seaspan Corp. (NYSE: SSW) is up 6.1% at $18.32; Sotheby’s (NYSE: BID) is down -10.2% at $35.32 (more coverage here); Dresser Rand Group Inc. (NYSE: DRC) is down -1.2% at $51.91; James River Coal Co. (NASDAQ: JRCC) is up 10.7% at $6.34; Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) is up 2.2% at $24.32; and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. (NYSE: MSO) is down -3.2% at $4.36.

Other standouts from today include the following stocks:

American Realty Trust Inc. (NASDAQ: ARCT) is up more than 73% at $10.40. The commercial real estate company came public this morning at $6/share, along with a tender auction to purchase up to $220 million worth of shares at a price not higher than $11/share and not less than $10.50/share.

Pegasystems Inc. (NASDAQ: PEGA) is up nearly 34% at $37.50. The business software maker beat earnings estimates last night.

Cenveo Inc. (NYSE: CVO) is up nearly 26% at $4.91. The printing company reported better-than-expected earnings last night, and has kicked off a tender offer to redeem about $460 million in debt.

Tudou Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: TUDO) is down nearly -17% at $13.30. The Chinese online video company reported better-than-expected revenues last night, but soaring costs led to a net loss.

FriendFinder Networks Inc. (NASDAQ: FFN) is down nearly -14% at $1.76. The adult social networking company’s credit rating was cut this morning by S&P.

Stay tuned for Friday. Chicago Fed president Charles Evans and St. Louis Fed president James Bullard are giving speeches. There are no other events of note scheduled for tomorrow.

Paul Ausick

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