The three major US stock indexes opened higher this morning despite the refusal of the European Central Bank to lower its interest rates (our story here) and a lower-than-expected rise in US labor costs (our coverage here). A report that the Fed could be considering a more active role in the face of a slowing US recovery boosted financial stocks again today (our story here) and promoted a ‘risk-off’ approach to US equities. The afternoon release of the Fed’s Beige Book did not contain any surprises, and stocks maintained their near-2% gains going into the last hour of trading.
The US dollar index fell today, now down 0.64% at 82.295. The GSCI commodity index is up fractionally at 584.5.22, with commodities prices generally up on the weaker dollar. WTI crude oil closed up 0.9%% at $85.02/barrel. Brent crude trades up 1.96% at $100.78/barrel. Natural gas fell about -1% today to $2.42/thousand cubic feet. Gold settled up 1.1% today, at $1,634.20/ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up nearly 287 points to 12,414.56 (2.37%), the NASDAQ rose more than 66 points (2.4%) to 2,844.72, and the S&P 500 rose 2.3% or nearly 30 points to 1,315.13.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) started as ‘market outperform’ at JMP Securities and raised to ‘hold’ from ‘sell’ at S&P Capital IQ; Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ: GRPN) raised to ‘hold’ from ‘sell’ at Stifel Nicolaus; Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK) raised to ‘hold’ from ‘sell’ at Argus (more news here); PulteGroup Inc. (NYSE: PHM) raised to ‘outperform’ at Credit Suisse; and The Sherwin-Williams Co. (NYSE: SHW) cut to ‘underperform’ at BofA/ML.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night have been scarce, but here are some price changes for reporting companies as of the last half hour of trading today: Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. (NYSE: HOV) is up 20% at $2.04; American Superconductor Corp. (NASDAQ: AMSC) is flat at $4.03; Cyberonics Inc. (NASDAQ: CYBX) is up 2.7% at $38.87; and Vail Resorts Inc. (NYSE: MTN) is up 6.7% at $46.66.
On Thursday, we are scheduled to get earnings reports from Comverse Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: CMVT), J.M. Smucker Co. (NYSE: SJM), Lululemon Athletica Inc. (NASDAQ: LULU), Pep Boys – Manny, Joe & Jack (NYSE: PBY), and Titan Machinery Inc. (NASDAQ: TITN).
Other standouts from today include the following stocks:
Tempur Pedic International Inc. (NYSE: TPX) is down -48.8% at $22.36 after posting a new 52-week low of $21.92 earlier today. The mattress maker revised its second quarter and full year guidance below expectations, dragging down the whole industry. More coverage here.
Fuel Cell Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: FCEL) is down -15.3% at $1.05. The fuel cell maker missed both revenue and EPS estimates after markets closed last night.
Stay tuned for Thursday. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota, and Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher are giving speeches. We have also noted the following events (all times Eastern):
- 8:30 a.m. – New claims for unemployment benefits
- 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly natural gas status report
- 3:00 p.m. – Consumer credit
- 4:30 p.m. – Fed balance sheet and money supply
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