Markets opened lower this morning and didn’t recover. The ISM services index came in lower than expected (our coverage here) and the EIA report on crude oil inventories pushed crude prices down (our coverage here). The markets haven’t recovered from yesterday’s release of the minutes of the FOMC meeting, which most observers saw as fairly hawkish (our coverage here). The US dollar index rose today, now up 0.37% at 79.776. Commodities were mixed on the stronger dollar, with corn and wheat down the most. WTI crude oil closed down -2.4% at $101.47/barrel, and Brent crude trades down -1.87% at $122.52/barrel. Gold settled down -3.5% today, at $1,614.10/ounce, its lowest price in three months.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down nearly 125 points to 13,074.83(-0.95%), the NASDAQ fell more than 45 points (-1.46%) to 3,068.09, and the S&P 500 fell -1.02% or more than 14 points to 1,398.96.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) cut to ‘neutral’ at BofA/ML; McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) removed from the ‘Conviction Buy List’ but maintained as ‘buy’ at Goldman Sachs; Southwest Airlines Corp. (NYSE: LUV) raised to ‘overweight’ at Barclays; Sandisk Corp. (NASDAQ: SNDK) cut to ‘outperform’ at RBC; and Blackstone Group LP (NYSE: BX) added to ‘Top Pick’ list at Citigroup.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night have led to some price changes as of the last half hour of trading today: Team Inc. (NYSE: TISI) is down -12.3% at $28.83; Mitcham Industries Inc. (NASDAQ: MIND) is down -3.9% at $23.37; Monsanto Co. (NYSE: MON) is down -1.3% at $80.70 (more coverage here); and Acuity Brands Inc. (NYSE: AYI) is down -9.7% at $57.51. After markets close today we get earnings from AngioDynamics Inc. (NASDAQ: ANGO), Harry Winston Diamond Corp. (NYSE: HWD), and PriceSmart Inc. (NASDAQ: PSMT). Before markets open tomorrow we’ll get earnings from Constellation Brands Inc. (NYSE: STZ), Pier One Imports Inc. (NYSE: PIR), and SemiLEDS Corp. (NASDAQ: LEDS).

Other standouts from today include the following stocks:

Cleveland BioLabs Inc. (NASDAQ: CBLI) is down more than -30% at $1.67 after posting a new 52-week low of $1.48. The biotech company’s funding from the federal government has been cut off.

Sandisk Corp. is down about -11% at $44.72. The flash memory maker revealed a weak outlook for the quarter. More coverage here.

THT Heat Transfer Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: THTI) is up nearly 80% at $2.30. The Chinese maker of heat exchangers reported decent earnings, but forecast revenues for the current quarter at half last quarter’s total. See our coverage yesterday of SmartHeat Inc. (NASDAQ: HEAT), another Chinese maker of heat exchangers. Just substitute the names.

CleanTech Solutions International Inc. (NASDAQ: CLNT) is up more than 177% at $6.10. The Chinese maker of metal components for wind turbines reported solid revenues last week, but profits were down. Another hard-to-figure move.

Stay tuned for Thursday. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard is giving a speech. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 7:30 a.m. – Challenger Gray & Christmas layoff report
  • 8:30 a.m. – New claims for unemployment benefits
  • 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly natural gas storage report
  • 3:00 p.m. – Treasury STRIPS
  • 4:30 p.m. – Federal Reserve balance sheet and money supply

Paul Ausick

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