24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell -- July 19, 2012: Market Up Slightly, Tech Leads

The three major US stock indexes opened higher this morning as investors continue to hope for more central bank stimulation in weakening global economy. These investors are probably right that something will have to be done, but the big question is when. In Asia, hopes are building that the central bank will ease its reserves requirement ratio. A larger current account surplus in Europe boosted hopes as well. In the US, a weak report on new claims for unemployment benefits (our coverage here), combined with a weaker-than-expected report on existing home sales (our coverage here) and a lower reading on the Conference Board’s index of leading indicators (our coverage here), sent equity prices falling again. On the whole, good earnings reports from some major technology companies probably balanced out the poor data reports.

The US dollar index fell today, now down -0.23% at 82.881. The GSCI commodity index rose about 1.1% to 639.75, with commodities prices virtually all higher today on the weaker dollar. Corn and soybeans hit new highs today, but gave most of the gains back falling reports of a possible slowdown in exports. WTI crude oil rose 3.1% today, closing at $92.66/barrel. Brent crude trades up 2.54% at $107.83/barrel. Natural gas is up 1.45% today to $3.016/thousand cubic feet following an inline report on inventories (more coverage here). Gold settled at $1,580.40/ounce, up 0.6%.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up nearly 35 points to 12,943.36 (0.27%), the NASDAQ rose more than 23 points (0.79%) to 2,965.90, and the S&P 500 rose 0.27% or nearly 4 points to 1,376.51.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Alpha Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE: ANR) cut to ‘hold’ at Brean Murray Carret; News Corp. (NASDAQ: NWSA) raised to ‘buy’ at Citigroup; Sirius XM Radio Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) raised to ‘outperform’ as Bull of the Day at Zack’s; U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB) cut to ‘perform’ at Oppenheimer; and Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) raised to ‘hold’ at SocGen.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night have led to some price changes as of the last half hour of trading today: American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP) is down -3.5% at $56.28; Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE: COF) is up 2.9% at $56.49 after posting a new 52-week high of $58.69 earlier today; eBay Inc. (NASDAQ: EBAY) is up 8.6% at $43.95 after posting a new 52-week high today of $44.44; International Business Machines Inc. (NYSE: IBM) is up 4% at $195.69; Yum! Brands Inc. (NYSE: YUM) is up 0.4% at $65.81; AutoNation Inc. (NYSE: AN) is down -3.5% at $40.97 (more coverage here); Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. (NYSE: DO) is up 3.4% at $66.01; Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (NYSE: FCX) is up 4.5% at $34.51; Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) is down -5.5% at $13.22; and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) is down -2.9% at $44.54 (more coverage here).

After markets close today we are set to hear from Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE: CMG), Dole Food Co. (NYSE: DOLE), Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG), Rambus Inc. (NASDAQ: RMBS), SanDisk Corp. (NASDAQ: SNDK), and Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT).

Before markets open on Friday we are scheduled to get earnings results from American Electric Power Co. Inc. (NYSE: AEP), Baker Hughes Inc. (NYSE: BHI), General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE), Manpower Inc. (NYSE: MAN), and Xerox Corp. (NYSE: XRX).

Some standouts from today include the following stocks:

Five Below Inc. (NASDAQ: FIVE) is up 58.9% at $27.01. The discount retailer of teen clothing held its IPO today, posting a high of $29.43 on an offering price of $17.00. More coverage here.

OCZ Technology Group Inc. (NASDAQ: OCZ) is up 24.5% at $5.68. The solid-state data storage company is rumored to be an acquisition target, including by Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ: STX).

Ignite Restaurant Group Inc. (NASDAQ: IRG) is down -20.4% at $15.18 after posting a new low of $14.00 earlier today. The restaurateur will restate earnings for past three fiscal years and the first quarter of 2012 after an accounting review.

Walgreen Co. (NYSE: WAG) is up 11.9% at $34.65. The drugstore chain has agreed to a new deal with Express Scripts Holdings Co. (NASDAQ: ESRX), the largest pharmacy benefits management company in the US. More coverage here.

There are no events or speeches currently scheduled for tomorrow.

Paul Ausick