Markets opened higher this morning following a solid report on US retail sales. Reports on both consumer and small business confidence both showed improvement in February (more coverage here and here). In the afternoon, the Federal Reserve left the fed funds rate unchanged and did not indicate any other changes to monetary policy (more coverage here). The Fed’s announcement pushed markets even higher to their best levels in nearly four years. The Treasury’s auction of 10-year notes boosted yields by three basis points. Crude oil moved higher today as well, with WTI crude closing up 0.4% at $106.71/barrel and Brent crude up 0.77% at $126.31/barrel. Gold settled at $1,694.20, down -0.3%

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 218 points to 13,177.83 (1.68%), the NASDAQ rose more than 56 points (1.88%) to 3,039.88, and the S&P 500 rose 1.81% or nearly 25 points to 1,395.97.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Booz Allen Hamilton (NYSE: BAH) cut to ‘market perform’ at Wells Fargo; Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) cut to ‘hold’ at Deutsche Bank; Urban Outfitters Inc. (NASDAQ: URBN) maintained as ‘neutral’ but estimates lowered at Credit Suisse (more coverage here); Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NYSE: WPI) reiterated as ‘buy’ with $70 target price at Argus; and Honeywell International Inc. (NYSE: HON) reiterated as ‘buy’ with $70 target price at Argus.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night have led to some price changes as of the last half hour of trading today: ADA-ES Inc. (NASDAQ: ADES) is up 2.4% at $25.87 after posting a new 52-week high of $27.00; Books-a-Million Inc. (NASDAQ: BAMM) is up 6.9% at $3.10; Ebix Inc. (NASDAQ: EBIX) is up 5.2% at $23.86; Lydall Inc. (NYSE: LDL) is up 6.3% at $9.75; Raven Industries Inc. (NASDAQ: RAVN) is up 3.8% at $63.77; X-Rite Inc. (NASDAQ: XRIT) is up 1.3% at $4.47; Aastrom Biosciences Inc. (NASDAQ: ASTM) is up 1.5% at $2.07; and IDT Corp. (NYSE: IDT) is up 16.3% at $9.77.

Other standouts from today include the following stocks:

BankAtlantic Bancorp Inc. (NYSE: BBX) is up nearly 87% at $3.60. The bank holding company received a sweetened deal this morning on its pending acquisition by BB&T Corp. (NYSE: BBT).

Omeros Corp. (NASDAQ: OMER) is up about 32% at $10.10 after posting a new 52-week high of $10.88 earlier. The biopharmaceutical company’s reported a successful phase III drug trial this morning.

North Central Bancshares Inc. (NASDAQ: FFFD) is up more than 36% at $30.03 after posting a new 52-week high of $30.10 earlier. The bank holding company is merging with Great Western Bancorporation Inc..

Coleman Cable Inc. (NASDAQ: CCIX) is down more than -20% at $10.35. The electrical equipment maker reported weak quarterly earnings and offered a weak forecast this morning.

Majesco Entertainment Co. (NASDAQ: COOL) is down more than -13% at $2.57. The video game maker reported weak earnings last night. More coverage here.

Stay tuned for Wednesday. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is giving a speech in the morning. 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. – Import and export prices
  • 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report
  • 1:00 p.m. – 30-year Treasury bond auction

Paul Ausick

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