The three major US stock indexes opened higher this morning following the announcement of an interest rate cut in China (our coverage here). Spain sold more than €2 billion in bonds at slightly more than 6%, a better-than-expected showing (our coverage here). Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before Congress today and let some air out of the notion that another quantitative easing program was coming (our coverage here). Going into the last hour of trading the DJIA is up nearly 1%, the Nasdaq is up about 0.25%, and the S&P 500 is up about 0.65%. By day’s end, only the DJIA would show a slight gain.
The US dollar index fell today, now down -0.31% at 82.068. The GSCI commodity index is up about 1.3% at 593.06, with commodities prices generally higher again today on the weaker dollar. WTI crude oil closed down -0.2%% at $84.82/barrel. Brent crude trades down -0.85% at $99.78/barrel. Natural gas fell about -6% today to $2.276/thousand cubic feet on the weekly EIA storage report (our coverage here). Gold settled down -2.8% today, at $1,588.00/ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up about 46 points to 12,460.96 (0.37%), the NASDAQ rose fell nearly 14 points (-0.48%) to 2,831.02, and the S&P 500 fell 0.01% or less than 1 point to 1,314.99.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Halliburton Co. (NYSE: HAL) cut to ‘neutral’ at Macquarie; Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL) maintained as ‘hold’ with a price target of $30 at Canaccord Genuity; Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) reiterated as ‘buy’ and target price raised from $44 to $47 at Argus; Chimera Investment Corp. (NYSE: CIM) started as ‘market perform’ at Wells Fargo; and Charter Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: CHTR) started as ‘outperform’ at Sanford Bernstein.
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: Comverse Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: CMVT) is down -7.6% at $5.61 after posting a new 52-week low of $5.40 earlier today; J.M. Smucker Co. (NYSE: SJM) is up 0.2% at $76.19; Lululemon Athletica Inc. (NASDAQ: LULU) is down -8.5% at $64.06 (more coverage here); and Titan Machinery Inc. (NASDAQ: TITN) is down -20.7% at $26.43.
Other standouts from today include the following stocks:
TravelCenters of America LLC (NYSE: TA) is up 16.6% at $5.56. The Interstate Highway system travel center operator has signed a deal with Royal Dutch Shell plc (NYSE: RDS-A) to offer natural gas fueling at a minimum of 100 of TravelCenters’ 238 locations.
Molina Healthcare Inc. (NYSE: MOH) is down -30% at $17.81. The supplier of Medicaid solutions withdrew its 2012 guidance complaining of margin pressure in Texas, where costs are higher than premium revenues.
Stay tuned for Friday. Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota is giving a speech. We have also noted the following events (all times Eastern):
8:30 a.m. – International trade
10:00 a.m. – Wholesale trade