The three major U.S. stock indexes opened lower this morning on an absence of new data from overseas and an expected drop in new claims for unemployment benefits did not occur (our coverage here). Encouraging reports on August retail sales (more coverage here) bolstering a July rise in personal consumption expenditures of 0.4% (our coverage here). But the news everyone is waiting for won’t come until tomorrow, when Fed chairman Ben Bernanke gives a speech from the Jackson Hole conference. Will the Fed commit to more easing or won’t it? Bernanke is most likely to indicate in the oblique manner of the Fed that August unemployment figures, due out next Friday, will drive the decision on easing.
The U.S. dollar index rose today, now up 0.18% at 81.696. The GSCI commodity index is up fractionally today at 668.71, with commodities prices mostly higher and corn at around $8.10/bushel. WTI crude oil finished down 0.9% today, closing at $94.62/barrel. Brent crude trades slightly higher at $112.66/barrel. Natural gas is up 2.4% today to $2.75/thousand cubic feet following the weekly storage report (more coverage here). Gold settled at $1,657.10/ounce, down 0.4% again today.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down nearly 107 points to 13,000.78 (-0.81%), the NASDAQ fell more than 32 points (-1.05%) to 3,048.71, and the S&P 500 fell -0.78% or about 11 points to 1,399.50.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) cut to ‘neutral’ with a lowered target price of $74 at Credit Suisse; Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. Ltd. (NYSE: YGE) cut to ‘sell’ with a target price of $1.00 at ThinkEquity; Aetna Inc. (NYSE: AET) started as ‘neutral’ with a $43 target price at Credit Suisse; Louisiana-Pacific Co. (NYSE: LPX) raised to ‘buy’ with a $16 target price at BofA; and Citrix Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CTXS) started as ‘neutral’ at Longbow Research.
Some companies that reported earnings since markets closed last night and have share price changes as of the last half hour of trading today include Lantronix Inc. (NASDAQ: LTRX) is down 7.9% at $1.87; Chuy’s Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: CHUY) is up 7.5% at $20.70 after posting a new 52-week high of $21.60; Tivo Inc. (NASDAQ: TIVO) is down 2.1% at $9.16; Vera Bradley Inc. (NASDAQ: VRA) is down 8.3% at $21.66; and The Toronto-Dominion Bank (NYSE: TD) is down 1.3% at $81.29.
Earnings releases scheduled before markets open tomorrow morning include Omnivision Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: OVTI), SAIC Inc. (NYSE: SAI), and Zumiez Inc. (NASDAQ: ZUMZ).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Pandora Media Inc. (NYSE: P) is up 16.1% at $11.70. The internet radio provider beat earnings expectations last night and raised guidance. More coverage here.
Ciena Corp. (NASDAQ: CIEN) is down 19.1% at $13.53. The networking coverage missed its EPS expectations and forecast a weaker quarter going forward. More coverage here.
First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) is down 17.3% at $20.02. The solar panel maker is ahead of schedule on a big project and will have to stop work for a while. More coverage here.
Stay tuned for Friday. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s long-awaited remarks from Jackson Hole are scheduled for 10 a.m. tomorrow morning. We have noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 9:45 a.m. – Chicago PMI
- 9:55 a.m. – University of Michigan/Reuters consumer confidence index
- 10:00 a.m. – Factory orders
- 3:00 p.m. – Farm prices
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