Markets opened about higher this morning following a flat close in Asia and a bit of enthusiasm in Europe following a manufacturing survey from Germany (our coverage here). Then Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke hinted that more stimulus might be on its way to help boost employment(our coverage here). By the last hour of trading the indexes were at or near their highest level of the day. The US dollar index fell today, now down -0.46% at 78.978. Commodities were generally higher on the dollar weakness, with the notable exception of corn. WTI crude oil closed up 0.2% at $107.03/barrel, and Brent crude trades up 0.44% at $125.68/barrel. Gold settled up 1.6% today, at $1,689.00/ounce.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 161 points to 13,241.93(1.23%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 55 points (1.78%) to 3,122.57, and the S&P 500 rose 1.39% or more than 19 points to 1,416.50.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Baker Hughes Inc. (NYSE: BHI) cut to ‘market perform’ at Wells Fargo; Micron Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MU) cut to ‘perform’ at Oppenheimer; Safeway Inc. (NYSE: SWY) cut to ‘neutral’ at Credit Suisse; Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) raised to ‘buy’ at Wunderlich; and Magic Investment Corp. (NYSE: MTG) started as ‘market perform’ at Keefe Bruyette Woods.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night have led to some price changes as of the last half hour of trading today: Cal-Maine Foods Inc. (NASDAQ: CALM) is down -5.7% at $39.58; and Saratoga Resources Inc. (AMEX: SARA) is up 6.9% at $7.43. After markets close today Apollo Group Inc. (NASDAQ: APOL) and Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA (NYSE: GOL) report earnings. Before the markets open in the morning, we’ll get earnings from Walgreen Co. (NYSE: WAG) and homebuilder Lennar Corp. (NYSE: LEN).

Other standouts from today include the following stocks:

Verenium Corp. (NASDAQ: VRNM) is up nearly 20% at $3.69 after posting a new 52-week high of $4.15 earlier today. The enzyme maker is selling some assets. More coverage here.

Schulumberger Ltd. (NYSE: SLB) is down -1.1% at $72.36. The oil field services giant warned on earnings. More coverage here.

A123 Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: AONE) is down about -13.4% at $1.47 after posting a new 52-week low of $1.45 earlier. The company will recall certain batteries for replacement. More coverage here.

AudioCodes Ltd. (NASDAQ: AUDC) is down -16.2% at $2.95. The network gear maker lowered its outlook. More coverage here.

Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ARNA) is up more than 24% at $2.99 after posting a new 52-week high of $3.19. The drug-maker has begun the process of getting a new drug to market in Europe. More coverage here.

Stay tuned for Tuesday. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren are giving speeches. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 9:00 a.m. – S&P Case-Shiller housing price index
  • 10:00 a.m. – Conference Board consumer confidence index
  • 10:00 a.m. – Richmond Fed manufacturing index
  • 11:30 a.m. – 4-week Treasury bill auction
  • 2:00 p.m. – 2-year note auction

Paul Ausick