24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell -- September 4, 2012: Markets Off to Slow Start in September (ARMH, GME, NWSA, IBM, MT, CPB, SFD, HSOL, BLMN, FNSR, PBY, DG, MRX, VRX, HEK, QCOR)

The three major U.S. stock indexes opened flat to slightly lower this morning after the three-day holiday weekend. PMI readings from Europe came out weaker than expected yesterday (our coverage here), as did the PMI readings from China (our coverage here). While last week was spent anticipating Friday’s speech by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, the first several days of this week are another holding period awaiting a Thursday announcement from the ECB on interest rates, and some expect more support from the central bank for sovereign bond purchases (more coverage here). The ISM PMI reading for August indicated a contraction in the economy, albeit a small one (our coverage here). U.S. auto sales were strong in August, but that wasn’t enough to move shares much today.

The U.S. dollar index is higher today, now up 0.11% at 81.300. The GSCI commodity index is up 1.2% today at 675.03, with commodities prices mixed and corn rising to $8.00/bushel again. WTI crude oil closed down 1.2% today, at $95.30/barrel. Brent crude trades down 1.5% at $114.10/barrel. Natural gas is up 2% today to $2.855/thousand cubic feet. Gold closed at $1,696.00/ounce, up 0.5% today, and the highest close in more than 5 months.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down nearly 55 points to 13,035.86 (-0.42%), the NASDAQ rose more than 8 points (0.26%) to 3,075.06, and the S&P 500 fell -0.12% or nearly 2 points to 1,404.94.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including ARM Holdings PLC (NASDAQ: ARMH) cut to ‘sell’ at Deutsche Bank; GameStop Corp. (NYSE: GME) raised to ‘buy’ at Goldman Sachs; News Corp. (NASDAQ: NWSA) raised to ‘overweight’ at Barclays; International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) raised to ‘overweight’ with a target price of $240 at Barclays; and ArcelorMittal (NYSE: MT) started as ‘buy’ at Jefferies.

Some companies that reported earnings since markets closed last Friday and have recent share price changes today include Campbell Soup Co. (NYSE: CPB)is down 0.1% at $35.10 after posting a new 52-week high of $36.28 earlier today (our coverage here) and Smithfield Foods Inc. (NYSE: SFD) is up 3.2% at $19.93 (our coverage here). Hanwha Solarone Co. Ltd. (NASDAQ: HSOL) was scheduled to announce earnings today, but postponed the release until next Tuesday.

Earnings releases scheduled before markets open on Wednesday morning include Bloomin’ Brands Inc. (NASDAQ: BLMN), Finisar Corp. (NASDAQ: FNSR), Pep Boys – Manny, Moe & Jack (NYSE: PBY), and Dollar General Corp. (NYSE: DG).

Some standouts from today include the following stocks:

Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp. (NYSE: MRX) is up 38.3% at $43.65 after posting a new 52-week high of $43.70 earlier today. The specialty drugmaker has agreed to be acquired Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. (NYSE: VRX) for $2.6 billion in a deal that was announced yesterday. More coverage here.

Heckmann Corp. (NYSE: HEK) is up 42.2% at $3.83. The water and waste-water services provider to shale oil & gas producers will acquire privately-held Power Fuels for $381 million, doubling the company’s revenue stream and adding immediately to EPS.

Questcor Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOR) is up 9.6% at $47.62. The biopharmaceutical maker has been told by the federal government that it may be able to reduce the Medicaid rebate it currently pays by 77%.

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

  • 7:00 a.m. – Mortgage Bankers Association purchase applications
  • 8:30 a.m. – Productivity and costs
  • 11:30 a.m. – 4-week bill auctions

Paul Ausick

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