24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell -- July 18, 2012: Markets Rise on Lack of Bad News

The three major US stock indexes opened modestly lower this morning as there was little news out of Europe and Asian markets closed mixed. Traders were waiting to hear more from Fed Chairman Bernanke during his appearance before a House committee this morning. This afternoon’s release of the Fed ‘Beige Book’ failed to move markets much either (our coverage here). In general, Bernanke’s comments yesterday that the Fed was ready to step in with more easing if needed seemed to be driving the positive gains we’ve seen today. That, and a blizzard of earnings results which we’ll look at later in this report.

The US dollar index rose slightly today, now up 0.07% at 83.088 after posting a high of 83.34 earlier this morning. The GSCI commodity index rose about 0.2% to 632.52, with commodities prices mostly higher today. Corn prices rose a modest 1.2%. WTI crude oil rose 0.7% today, closing at $89.87/barrel, a seven-week high. Brent crude trades up 1.1% at $105.11/barrel. Natural gas is up 6.3% today to $2.972/thousand cubic feet on an expected drop in tomorrow’s storage report. Gold settled at $1,573.00/ounce, down 1%.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 103 points to 12,908.70 (0.81%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 33 points (1.12%) to 2,942.60, and the S&P 500 rose 0.67% or more than 9 points to 1,372.78.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) cut to ‘hold’ at Jefferies; Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) started as ‘overweight’ at JPMorgan; Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) cut to ‘sell’ at Argus; Saks Inc. (NYSE: SKS) cut to ‘sell’ at Goldman Sachs; and Hillshire Brands Co. (NYSE: HSH) raised to ‘outperform’ 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: Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) is up 3.8% at $26.35; CSX Corp. (NYSE: CSX) is down -0.9% at $22.59; United Rentals Inc. (NYSE: URI) is down -14.4% at $29.46; Wynn Resorts Ltd. (NASDAQ: WYNN) is down -1.1% at $96.34; Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT) is down -0.7% at $66.00 after posting a new 52-week high of $66.80 earlier today (more coverage here); Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) is down -4.2% at $7.59 (more coverage here); BlackRock Inc. (NYSE: BLK) is down -0.5% at $175.19; Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (NASDAQ: CHKP) is up 7.4% at $49.00; Honeywell International Inc. (NYSE: HON) is up 6.7% at $58.20; and W.W. Grainger Inc. (NYSE: GWW) is up 11.2% at $210.16.

After markets close today we are set to hear from American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP), Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE: COF), eBay Inc. (NASDAQ: EBAY), International Business Machines Inc. (NYSE: IBM), Kinder Morgan Energy Partners L.P. (NYSE: KMP), Noble Corp. (NYSE: NE), and Yum! Brands Inc. (NYSE: YUM).

Before markets open on Thursday we are scheduled to get earnings results from AutoNation Inc. (NYSE: AN), Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. (NYSE: DO), Fifth Third Bancorp (NASDAQ: FITB), Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (NYSE: FCX), Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS), Nucor Corp. (NYSE: NUE), NVR Inc. (NYSE: NVR), Philip Morris International Inc. (NYSE: PM), Safeway Inc. (NYSE: SWY), and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ).

Some standouts from today include the following stocks:

Vivus Inc. (NASDAQ: VVUS) is up 9.8% at $29.04 after posting a new 52-week high of $32.49 earlier today. The biopharmaceutical firm received FDA approval for its anti-obesity drug. More coverage here.

Supernus Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: SUPN) is up 36.1% at $14.55. The drug maker expects to launch two new drugs next year, now than an issue with the FDA has been cleared up.

Rovi Corp. (NASDAQ: ROVI) is down -42.8% at $10.10, after posting a new 52-week low of $10.05 earlier today. The digital entertainment technology company warned on earnings today.

EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) is up 9.8% at $25.17. The enterprise storage maker, which owns 80% of VMWare Inc. (NYSE: VMW), replaced VMWare’s CEO today in a management shake-up that was well received by investors.

Stay tuned for Thursday. We have noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 8:30 a.m. – New claims for unemployment benefits
  • 10:00 a.m. – Existing home sales
  • 10:00 a.m. – Philadelphia Fed manufacturing survey
  • 10:00 a.m. – Leading economic indicators
  • 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly natural gas storage report
  • 1:00 p.m. – 10-year TIPS auction
  • 4:30 p.m. – Fed balance sheet and money supply

Paul Ausick