24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell -- July 3, 2012: Modest Gains Before Fireworks Go Off

The three major US stock indexes opened roughly flat this morning as European markets traded in advance of an expected cut in interest rates by the European Central Bank later this week. Asian markets were stronger today as well, as non-manufacturing PMI in China came in at a three-month high. US stocks were trading moderately higher just before today’s early close.

The US dollar index rose today, now down -0.12% at 81.773. The GSCI commodity index is down -0.3% at 597.40, with commodities prices uniformly higher today. WTI crude oil has jumped 3.4% today, trading at $87.15/barrel. Brent crude trades up 3.6% at $100.84/barrel. Tensions with Iran have moved prices up (more coverage here). Natural gas are up 0.92% today to $2.85/thousand cubic feet. Gold is trading up 1.2%, at $1,617.00/ounce.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 72 points to 12,943.43 (0.56%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 25 points (0.84%) to 2,976.08, and the S&P 500 rose 0.62% or nearly 9 points to 1,374.02.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Barclays PLC (NYSE: BCS) cut to ‘hold’ at Deutsche Bank; HealthSouth Corp. (NYSE: HLS) started as ‘buy’ at UBS; Research in Motion Ltd. (NASDAQ: RIMM) cut to ‘underweight’ at Barclays; Broadcom Corp. (NASDAQ: BRCM) reiterated as ‘buy’ with a $46 price target at Argus; and American Electric Power Co. (NYSE: AEP) raised to ‘overweight’ at Morgan Stanley.

There were no earnings reports of note today, and none are scheduled for Thursday either as US markets return to action following the July Fourth holiday.

Some standouts from today include the following stocks:

Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE: DUK) is up 195% at $68.57. The electric utility completed its merger with  Progress Energy today and effected a one-for-three reverse split. More coverage here.

Patriot Coal Corp. (NYSE: PCX) is up 32.3% at $1.83. The coal miner is up sharply on reports of increased demand for coal in Europe. More coverage here.

Verso Paper Corp. (NYSE: VRS) is up 45% at $1.69. The paper company has proposed a merger with bankrupt rival NewPage Corp.

Stay tuned for Thursday. US markets are closed tomorrow in observance of the Independence Day holiday. We have noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 7:00 a.m. – Mortgage Bankers Association purchase applications
  • 7:30 a.m. – Challenger job-cut report
  • 8:15 a.m. – ADP employment report
  • 8:30 a.m. – New claims for unemployment benefits
  • 10:00 a.m. – ISM non-manufacturing index
  • 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly natural gas storage report
  • 11:00 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report
  • 4:30 p.m. – Federal Reserve balance sheet and money supply

Have a great holiday!

Paul Ausick