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Markets opened about flat this morning but lost ground almost immediately as new home sales data came in weaker than expected. Then came a report that Iranian crude shipments were falling as a result of US-led sanctions, and that pulled the major indexes into positive territory (our coverage here). By the last hour of trading the indexes were up slightly. The US dollar index fell today, now down -0.47% at 79.360. Commodities were generally higher on the dollar weakness. WTI crude oil closed up 1.4% at $106.87/barrel, and Brent crude trades up 1.56% at $125.06/barrel. Gold settled up 1.2% today, at $1,662.40/ounce, finishing the week up 0.4%..

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up nearly35 points to 13,080.73 (0.27%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 5 points (0.15%) to 3,067.92, and the S&P 500 rose 0.31% ormore than 4 points to 1,397.11.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Aetna Inc. (NYSE: AET) cut to ‘neutral’ at Goldman Sachs; Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO) raised to ‘outperform’ at Wells Fargo; Monster Worldwide Inc. (NYSE: MWW) raised to ‘outperform’ at Baird; Reynolds Aluminum Inc. (NYSE: RAI) cut to ‘market perform’ at Wells Fargo; and Zynga Inc. (NASDAQ: ZNGA) started as ‘underperform’ at Needham.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night have led to some price changes as of the last half hour of trading today: Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE: DRI) is down -1.9% at $50.85; Dialogic Inc. (NASDAQ: DLGC) is up almost 95% at $1.40; Accenture plc (NYSE: ACN) is up 2% at $64.79 after posting a new 52-week high of $64.88 earlier today; Bacterin International Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: BONE) is down -26% at $2.49; and Wet Seal Inc. (NASDAQ: WTSLA) is down -7.9% at $3.27.

Other standouts from today include the following stocks:

KB Home (NYSE: KBH) is down more than 9% at $10.20. The homebuilder posted weak earnings and said that orders were down. More coverage here.

KIT Digital Inc. (NASDAQ: KITD) is down more than -23% at $6.25 after posting a new 52-week low this morning of $5.99. The video technology company is going through a management shake-up. More coverage here.

Cost Plus Inc. (NASDAQ: CPWM) is up more than 16% at $18.62 after hitting a new 52-week high of $18.98 earlier today. The company reported good earnings and offered an upbeat forecast. More coverage here.

Peabody Energy Corp. (NYSE: BTU) is down about -0.50% at $30.39. The coal miner said estimates would come in at the lower end of the forecast range. More coverage here.

Plug Power Inc. (NASDAQ: PLUG) is down more than -4% at $1.35. The company had a secondary offering of 1.95 million shares today. More coverage here.

Stay tuned for Monday. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser are giving speeches. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 8:30 a.m. – Chicago Fed national activity index
  • 10:00 a.m. – Pending home sales index
  • 10:30 a.m. – Dallas Fed manufacturing survey
  • 11:30 a.m. – 3- and 6-month Treasury bill auction

Have a great weekend!

Paul Ausick