24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell -- September 25, 2012: Markets Slide on Macro Worries (CAT, PAYX, P, WAG, GE, ADP, PSDV, RHT, FDS, NEOG, CCL, MTN, JBL, SNX, PPHM, SPLS, BIOF, GOOG)

The three major U.S. stock indexes opened higher this morning but were unable to hold gains into the afternoon. In Europe this morning, a Spanish bond auction widened the spread between German and Spanish bonds by around 10 basis points and the ECB and Germany’s Bundesbank are lawyering up as a precaution against challenges to the ECB’s bond-buying program (more coverage here). Asian markets closed mixed today as some investors are worried about the impact of the ECB plan in the real world. In the U.S., the S&P Case-Shiller house price index (more coverage here) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (more coverage here) both reported that house prices continue to rise. The reading on U.S. consumer confidence beat expectations as well (more coverage here). But an earnings warning from Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) weighed on industrials all day (more coverage here) and falling crude oil prices dragged on the energy sector.

The U.S. dollar index rose today, now up 0.05% at 79.561. The GSCI commodity index is down 0.9% at 657.68, with commodities prices mixed. WTI crude oil closed down 0.6% today, at $91.37 a barrel. Brent crude trades up 0.6% at $110.47 a barrel. Natural gas is up 3.4% today to $2.9333 per thousand cubic feet. Gold closed at $1,766.40 an ounce, up 0.1%.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down more than 101 points to 13,457.55 (-0.75%), the NASDAQ fell more than 43 points (-1.36%) to 3,117.73, and the S&P 500 fell -1.05% or more than 15 points to 1,441.59.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Paychex Inc. (NASDAQ: PAYX) cut to ‘sell’ at Citigroup; Pandora Media Inc. (NYSE: P) cut to ‘reduce’ at Nomura; Walgreen Co. (NYSE: WAG) put on ‘Conviction Buy List’ with a target price of $43 at Goldman Sachs; General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) reiterated as ‘buy’ with a target price of $25 at BofA/ML; and Automatic Data Processing Inc. (NASDAQ: ADP) cut to ‘neutral’ at UBS.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in some price moves today, including pSivida Corp. (NASDAQ: PSDV) is down 1.8% at $1.66; Paychex Inc. (NASDAQ: PAYX) is down 2.7% at $33.45 (more coverage here); Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT) is down 4% at $55.24 (more coverage here); FactSet Research Systems Inc. (NYSE: FDS) is 4.1% at $98.64; Neogen Corp. (NASDAQ: NEOG) is up 7.6% at $43.03; Carnival Corp. (NYSE: CCL) is up 0.5% at $37.20 after posting a new 52-week high of $59.00 earlier today (more coverage here); and Vail Resorts Inc. (NYSE: MTN) is up 8.5% at $57.22 after posting a new 52-week high of $59.46 earlier today.

Before markets open tomorrow we are scheduled to hear from Jabil Circuit Inc. (NYSE: JBL) and Synnex Corp. (NYSE: SNX).

Some standouts from today include the following stocks:

Peregrine Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: PPHM) is up 46.5% at $1.70. The drugmaker disclosed some with research data discrepancies yesterday that sent the stock plunging. Is this a dead-cat bounce? More coverage here.

Staples Inc. (NASDAQ: SPLS) is down 4.6% at $11.78. The office supply company said today that it would close 15 stores by the end of the year. More coverage here.

BioFuel Energy Corp. (NASDAQ: BIOF)) is up 7.7% at $6.41. The ethanol maker will close one of its two plants due to high feedstock costs and a surplus of ethanol. The stock could also still be feeling the effects of new investment by hedge fund manager David Einhorn.

Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) is up 0.4% at $752.00 after posting a second consecutive all-time high today of $764.89. The online search giant is getting a lot more attention now that it’s pretty clear that Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) is no immediate threat to Google’s business.

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
  • 10:00 a.m. – New home sales
  • 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report
  • 1:00 p.m. – 5-year note auction

Paul Ausick

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