The three major US stock indexes opened higher this morning as markets ignored a steep rise in short-term Spanish debt and focused instead on some encouraging news on new housing construction permits (our coverage here). There was little other data out today as the Federal Reserve’s FOMC began its two-day meeting, out of which many analysts expect or hope to see at least a continuation of Operation Twist, if not another round of quantitative easing.
The US dollar index fell today, now down -0.66% at 81.402. The GSCI commodity index is down -0.2% at 581.45, with commodities prices solidly higher today on the declining dollar (our coverage of rising corn prices). WTI crude oil closed up 0.9% at $84.03/barrel. Brent crude trades down -0.25% at $95.81/barrel. Natural gas rose fell about -3% today to $2.555/thousand cubic feet. Gold settled down -0.2%, at $1,623.20/ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 95 points to 12,837.33(0.75%), the NASDAQ rose more than 34 points (1.19%) to 2,929.76, and the S&P 500 rose 0.98% or more than 13 points to 1,357.98.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including AK Steel Holding Corp. (NYSE: AKS) cut to ‘neutral’ at UBS; Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) reiterated as ‘buy’ with a price target of $34 at Argus; Valero Energy Corp. (NYSE: VLO) raised to ‘buy’ at UBS; Capstone Turbine Corp. (NASDAQ: CPST) cut to ‘market perform’ at FBR Capital Markets; and Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) raised to ‘outperform’ with a price target of $38 at Credit Suisse.
Earnings reports since markets closed last Friday have been scarce, but here are some price changes for reporting companies as of the last half hour of trading today: Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL) is up 3.2% at $27.99 (more coverage here); Barnes & Noble Inc. (NYSE: BKS) is down -4.2% at $14.60; FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) is up 3% at $91.16 (more coverage here); Jefferies Group Inc. (NYSE: JEF) is up 0.4% at $13.15; and Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) is up 2.5% at $33.65.
After markets close today we’re scheduled to get earnings from Adobe Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: ADBE) and Jabil Circuit Ltd. (NYSE: JBL). Before markets open tomorrow earnings are due from Jinkosolar Holding Co. Ltd. (NYSE: JKS) and Le Gaga Holdings Ltd. (NASDAQ: GAGA).
Other standouts from today include the following stocks:
Petroleo Brasileiro S.A (NYSE: PBR) is up 7.3% at $20.39. Brazil’s state-controlled oil & gas company benefits from the possibility that the government will allow increases in gasoline prices. More coverage here.
Affymetrix Inc. (NASDAQ: AFFX) is down -13.6% at $4.66. The drug maker announced shortly before markets closed last night that it would of a $105 million sale of unsecured Convertible Senior notes to help finance its acquisition of eBioscience.
Stay tuned for Wednesday. The FOMC ends its monthly 2-day meeting tomorrow with a press conference with Chairman Ben Bernanke. We have noted the following events (all times Eastern):
- 8:30 a.m. – Mortgage Bankers Association purchase applications
- 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report
- 12:30 p.m. – FOMC meeting announcement
- 2:00 p.m. – FOMC forecast
- 2:15 p.m. – Fed Chairman Bernanke’s press conference