24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell -- May 23, 2012 (FB, PCX, BX, AMAT, DELL, AEO, BIG, HRL, STP, TSL, FRED, HNZ, MMYT, TIF, TD, COST, PETM, STX)

The three major US stock indexes opened lower this morning after European leaders disagree on a fiscal response to the continent’s debt crisis(our coverage here). New US home sales were slightly above the consensus estimate, but made little difference in the slide. As the day wore on, more bad news from Europe sent crude oil prices tumbling and the dollar rising in the currency markets (our coverage here

). The US dollar index rose today, now up 0.76% at 82.115. The GSCI commodity index is down fractionally at 628.23, with commodities mostly lower on the stronger dollar. Orange juice, cocoa, and cotton were today’s big losers. WTI crude oil closed down -2.1% at $89.90/barrel, its lowest settlement since October, and Brent crude trades down -2.51% at $105.69/barrel. Natural gas rose just 0.52% today to $2.72/thousand cubic feet. Gold settled down -1.8% today, at $1,548.40/ounce.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down nearly 7 points to 12,496.07 (-0.05%), the NASDAQ rose about 11 points (0.39%) to 2,850.12, and the S&P 500 rose 0.17% or about 2 points to 1,318.85.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) started as ‘buy’ with a target price of $40 at Needham (more coverage here); Patriot Coal Corp. (NYSE: PCX) cut to ‘hold’ at Deutsche Bank; The Blackstone Group LP (NYSE: BX) raised ‘buy’ at Sterne Agee; Applied Materials Inc. (NASDAQ: AMAT) raised to ‘neutral’ at Goldman Sachs; and Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL) cut to ‘neutral’ at Mizuho and maintained as ‘underperform’ with a $14 target price at Credit Suisse.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night have led to some price changes as of the last half hour of trading today: Dell is down -16.8% at $12.55 after posting a new 52-week low of $12.31 earlier today (more coverage here); American Eagle Outfitters Inc. (NYSE: AEO) is up 1.4% at $20.07; Big Lots Inc. (NYSE: BIG) is up 4% at $36.20; Hormel Foods Corp. (NYSE: HRL) is up 1.2% at $29.54; Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. (NYSE: STP) is up 1.5% at $2.01 (more coverage here); and Trina Solar Ltd. (NYSE: TSL) is up 4.9% at $5.59.

Tomorrow we are scheduled to get earnings reports from Fred’s Inc. (NASDAQ: FRED), H.J. Heinz Co. (NYSE: HNZ), MakeMyTrip Ltd. (NASDAQ: MMYT), Tiffany & Co. (NYSE: TIF), The Toronto-Dominion Bank (NYSE: TD), and Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST).

Other standouts from today include the following stocks:

PetSmart Inc. (NASDAQ: PETM) is up 13.3% at $62.99 after posting a new 52-week high of $63.19 earlier today. The company reported better-than-expected earnings and forecast more good things to come.

Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ: STX) is down -2.4% at $25.72. The disk drive maker is buying France-based LaCie SA for $186 million.

Stay tuned for Thursday. New York Fed President William Dudley is giving a speech. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 8:30 a.m. – Durable goods orders
  • 8:30 a.m. – New claims for unemployment benefits
  • 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly natural gas storage report
  • 11:00 a.m. – Kansas City Fed manufacturing index
  • 1:00 p.m. – 7-year note auction
  • 4:30 p.m. – Fed balance sheet and money supply

Paul Ausick