The three major U.S. stock indexes opened higher this morning as markets shook off weak news from Europe in favor of better news from Asia. In Europe, German unemployment stayed at 8.6% (more coverage here), U.K. second-quarter GDP was revised upward (more coverage here), and European carmakers offered a bleak forecast (more coverage here). From China came the news of a new $58 billion reverse repurchase program by the Central bank, sparking hopes for more government intervention in the country’s faltering growth. In the U.S., new claims for jobless benefits fell, but news on durable goods orders and second-quarter GDP were disappointing (more coverage here). Pending home sales fell in August (more coverage here) and a couple of Federal Reserve districts — Chicago and Kansas City — reported weak manufacturing numbers. U.S. markets got a lift after Spain announced that it would make severe budget cuts and raise taxes to meet deficit goals for next year (more coverage here).
The U.S. dollar index fell today, now down 0.45% at 79.525. The GSCI commodity index is down 1 % at 651.87, with commodities prices generally higher on the weaker dollar. WTI crude oil closed up 2.1% today, at $91.85 a barrel. Brent crude trades up 2% at $112.23 a barrel. Natural gas is up 2.1% today to $3.283 per thousand cubic feet following an inline report on natural gas storage (more coverage here). Gold closed at $1,780.50 an ounce, up 1.5%.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up about 73 points to 13,486.51 (0.54%), the NASDAQ rose about 43 points (1.39%) to 3,136.60, and the S&P 500 rose 0.97% or nearly 14 points to 1,447.17.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) started as ‘hold’ at Stifel Nicolaus; Immunogen Inc. (NASDAQ: IMGN) started as ‘sell’ at UBS; ArcelorMittal (NYSE: MT) cut to ‘sell’ at Goldman Sachs (related story here); Monsanto Co. (NYSE: MON) raised to ‘outperform’ at Wells Fargo; and Honeywell International Inc. (NYSE: HON) started as ‘buy’ at BofA/ML.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in some price moves today, including these as of the last hour of trading: Progress Software Corp. (NASDAQ: PRGS) is up 12% at $21.46; Worthington Industries Inc. (NYSE: WOR) is down 0.8% at $22.24; HB Fuller Co. (NYSE: FUL) is down 9.3% at $30.27; Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) is up 7.2% at $39.67 after posting a new 52-week high of $39.73 earlier today (more coverage here); and McCormick & Company Inc. (NYSE: MKC) is down 1.7% at $61.85.
Before markets open tomorrow we are scheduled to hear from Research in Motion Ltd. (NASDAQ: RIMM), Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE), Accenture plc (NYSE: ACN), American Greetings Corp. (NYSE: AM), Finish Line Inc. (NASDAQ: FINL), and Walgreen Co. (NYSE: WAG).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Peregrine Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: PPHM) is down 30.7% at $1.15. The drugmaker reported that it paid off a defaulted $15 million loan.
First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) is up 12.5% at $23.50. The solar panel maker won a contract to build four solar farms in Mexico and is under consideration for a 1,000-megawatt solar plant in southern California.
Stay tuned for Friday. Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher is giving a speech. We have noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 8:30 a.m. – Personal income and outlays
- 9:45 a.m. – Chicago PMI
- 9:55 a.m. – University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters consumer sentiment index