The three major U.S. stock indexes opened higher this morning as expectations had been raised that the European Central Bank would institute some kind of bond-buying program to shore up the Eurozone’s crippled economy. Data on US employment and new claims for unemployment benefits came in better than expected, but didn’t have much impact on equities before the market opened. The ECB’s decision to go ahead with the bond purchases really drove equity prices higher this morning, and kept them well higher all day. If tomorrow’s non-farm payrolls report beats expectations of around 125,000 new jobs added, equities could take off again.
The U.S. dollar index is lower today, now down 0.21% at 81.062. The GSCI commodity index is down 0.5% today at 668.72, with commodities prices mostly higher and corn remaining below $8.00/bushel. WTI crude oil closed up 0.2% today, at $95.53/barrel. Brent crude trades up 0.46% at $113.61/barrel. Natural gas is down 0.8% today to $2.772/thousand cubic feet. Gold closed at $1,705.60/ounce, up 0.7% today, the yellow metal’s highest settlement price since March.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 244 points to 13,291.93 (1.87%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 67 points (2.17%) to 3,185.31, and the S&P 500 rose 2.04% or nearly 29 points to 1,432.11.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) cut to ‘sell’ at Deutsche Bank, SocGen, and S&P Equity Research; Barlcays PLC (NYSE: BCS) cut to ‘neutral’ at Credit Suisse; Activision Blizzard Inc. (NASDAQ: ATVI) raised to ‘overweight’ at Piper Jaffray; Monster Worldwide Inc. (NYSE: MWW) raised to ‘outperform’ at Zacks; and SunTrust Banks Inc. (NYSE: STI) raised to ‘overweight’ at JPMorgan.
Some companies that reported earnings since markets closed last night and have recent share price changes today include FuelCell Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: FCEL) is down 11.4% at $0.89; Harry Winston Diamond Corp. (NYSE: HWD) is up 5.5% at $12.91; Korn/Ferry International (NYSE: KFY) is down 6.6% at $14.27; and Layne Christensen Co. (NASDAQ: LAYN) is down 5% at $18.05.
Earnings releases scheduled before markets open on Friday morning include Mattress Firm Holding Co. (NASDAQ: MFRM), Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. (NASDAQ: SWHC), Comverse Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: CMVT), Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR), and Lululemon Athletica Inc. (NASDAQ: LULU).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
OCZ Technology Group Inc. (NASDAQ: OCZ) is down 20.5% at $4.26 after posting a new 52-week low of $3.86 earlier today. The solid state hard drive maker will miss quarterly revenue targets as a result of chip shortage. More coverage here.
Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) is up 1.9% at $250.93 after posting a new all-time high of $252.69 earlier today. The ecommerce giant introduced new models of its Kindle and Kindle Fire tablets today, and benefited from a court settlement involving several publishers. More coverage here.
Stay tuned for Friday. We have noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 8:30 a.m. – Non-farm payroll report
- 3:00 p.m. – Treasury STRIPS