24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell -- August 23, 2012: Markets Lose Ground on Weak Data (XOM, NOC, SWY, CS, WFM, HPQ, KKD, FLWS, BIG, HRL, JKS, ADSK, BEBE, CRM, SCVL, SOL, MSG, NOK, ROSG, JKS)

The three major US stock indexes opened lower this morning and spent most of the day heading lower still. Economic data was mixed at best today, with the flash PMI number lower than expected in China (more coverage here), followed by weakness in the overall flash PMI from the Eurozone (more coverage here). Yesterday’s FOMC minutes offered more hope for additional easing, which pumped some life in this morning’s futures as well. New claims for unemployment benefits came in worse than expected (more coverage here), while new home sales were higher than estimates (more coverage here). Housing prices in the U.S. also continued to rise, up 0.7% in June according to the FHFA.

The US dollar index fell today, now down 0.16% at 81.357. The GSCI commodity index is up fractionally today at 676.69, with commodities prices almost uniformly lower. WTI crude oil finished down 1% today, closing at $96.27/barrel. Brent crude trades up 0.03% at $114.95/barrel. Natural gas is down 0.2% today to $2.82/thousand cubic feet, following a larger-than-expected increase to U.S. inventories (our coverage here). Gold settled at $1,672.80/ounce, up 2% at a four-month high on the expectation of more quantitative easing.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down about 114 points to 13,058.70 (-0.87%), the NASDAQ fell more than 20 points (-0.66%) to 3,053.40, and the S&P 500 fell -0.81% or more than 11 points to 1,402.11.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) maintained as ‘neutral’ but target price raised to $90 at Credit Suisse, Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE: NOC) cut to ‘underperform’ at UBS; Safeway Inc. (NYSE: SWY) cut to ‘hold’ at Jefferies; Credit Suisse (NYSE: CS) raised to ‘buy’ at Deutsche Bank; and Whole Foods Market Inc. (NASDAQ: WFM) started as ‘outperform’ at Wells Fargo.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night have led to some price changes as of the last half hour of trading today: Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) is down 7.8% at $17.71 (more coverage here); Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. (NYSE: KKD) is up 5.8% at $7.35; Inc. (NASDAQ: FLWS) is down 1.3% at $3.55; Big Lots Inc. (NYSE: BIG) is down 23% at $29.89 after posting a new 52-week low of $29.33 earlier today (more coverage here); Hormel Foods Corp. (NYSE: HRL) is up 1.4% at $28.83; and Jinkosolar Holding Co. Ltd. (NYSE: JKS) is down 0.7% at $2.95.

Earnings releases scheduled before tomorrow’s open include Aruba Networks Inc. (NASDAQ: ARUN), Autodesk Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK), bebe Stores Inc. (NASDAQ: BEBE), Inc. (NYSE: CRM), Shoe Carnival Inc. (NASDAQ: SCVL), ReneSola Ltd. (NYSE: SOL), and The Madison Square Garden Co. (NASDAQ: MSG).

Some standouts from today include the following stocks:

Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) is up 10.5% at $3.18. The mobile phone maker has no news today, but with more than 37 million shares held short, there is likely to be some short covering going on.

Rosetta Genomics Ltd. (NASDAQ: ROSG) is up 45.9% at $6.90. The health diagnostics maker got an upgrade today, adding to a doubling of the share price since the beginning of the year (more coverage here).

Guess? Inc. (NYSE: GES) is down 22.7% at $25.92. The apparel and accessories retailer missed earnings expectations and lowered guidance after markets closed yesterday.

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

8:30 a.m. – Durable goods orders

Paul Ausick

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