The three major US stock indexes opened somewhat higher this morning following better-than-expected data on UK retail sales and an inline reading on Eurozone CPI (more coverage here). The news out of Asia was mixed after comments from China’s premier that lower inflation could allow additional modifications to monetary policy — read, stimulus. That helped boost markets, but the 3.6% drop in foreign direct investment in China had the opposite effect. In the US, initial claims for unemployment benefits rose slightly (our coverage here), and the Philadelphia Fed’s manufacturing survey rose while still remaining in negative territory (more coverage here). The data on housing starts and new building permits was also mixed (more coverage here).
The US dollar index fell today, now down 0.37% at 82.339. The GSCI commodity index rose 1% to 662.14, with commodities prices mixed again today. WTI crude oil finished up 1.4% today, closing at $95.60/barrel. Brent crude trades up 0.65% at $115.05/barrel. Natural gas is up 0.4% today to $2.754/thousand cubic feet, after today’s inventory report showed a smaller-than-expected build. Gold settled at $1,619.20/ounce, up 0.8%.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up about 85 points to 13,249.88 (0.65%), the NASDAQ rose more than 31 points (1.04%) to 3,062.39, and the S&P 500 rose 0.71% or nearly 10 points to 1,415.51.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Kinder Morgan Inc. (NYSE: KMI) raised to ‘overweight’ at JPMorgan; Staples Inc. (NASDAQ: SPLS) cut to ‘sell’ at Citigroup; Kayak Software Corp. (NASDAQ: KYAK) started as ‘buy’ at Lazard; Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE: ANF) cut to ‘underperform’ at Macquarie; and American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP) started as ‘neutral’ at Janney.
Earnings reports since markets closed last last night have led to some price changes as of the last half hour of trading today: Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) is down 7.9% at $37.29; Applied Materials Inc. (NASDAQ: AMAT) is up 1.4% at $11.97 (more coverage here); Limited Brands Inc. (NYSE: LTD) is down 0.03% at $X48.97X; NetApp Inc. (NASDAQ: NTAP) is up 4% at $33.02; PetSmart Inc. (NASDAQ: PETM) is up 4.5% at $70.46 after posting a new 52-week high of $72.50; Dollar Tree Inc. (NASDAQ: DLTR) is down 1.6% at $49.22; E-commerce China Dangdang Inc. (NYSE: DANG) is down 1.2% at $4.94; GameStop Corp. (NYSE: GME) is up 5.2% at $17.94 (more coverage here); Ross Stores Inc. (NASDAQ: ROST) is down 0.2% at $68.38; Sears Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: SHLD) is up 6.6% at $60.36 (more coverage here); and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) is down 3% at $72.22 (more coverage here).
Earnings releases are slowing down, but reports scheduled before tomorrow’s open include Aeropostale Inc. (NYSE: ARO), America’s Car-Mart Inc. (NASDAQ: CRMT), Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: BRCD), Gap Inc. (NYSE: GPS), Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (NASDAQ: MRVL), Ann Inc. (NYSE: ANN), Foot Locker Inc. (NASDAQ: FL), and J.M. Smucker Co. (NYSE: SJM).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Perry Ellis International Inc. (NASDAQ: PERY)) is down 15.8% at $18.76. The upscale clothing maker cut its forecast after missing EPS estimates this morning.
Sina Corp. (NASDAQ: SINA) is up 10.9% at $56.42 on 6x average daily volume. The Chinese Internet company reported quarterly profit was 3x higher than for the same period last year.
Stay tuned for Friday. We have noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 9:55 a.m. – University of Michigan/Reuters consumer sentiment index
- 10:00 a.m. – Leading economic indicators