24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell -- October 1, 2012: Markets Struggle to Hold Early Gains (ALU, NOW, FINL, IACI, BIDU, CALM, FGP, SURG, TISI, ZNGA, AYI, MOS, CRDN, MMM, FONR, NOK, ORCL)

The three major U.S. stock indexes opened higher this morning as the eurozone PMI numbers came in slightly better than expected, but still with a contractionary direction (more coverage here). China’s manufacturing PMI number also indicated continued contraction. Markets in Shanghai and Hong Kong are closed for the week to observe the Golden Week holiday. The September ISM manufacturing index came in higher than expected in the U.S. (more coverage here), but construction spending fell in August (more coverage here).

The U.S. dollar index fell today, now down 0.13% at 79.832. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.8% at 665.73, with commodities prices mixed. WTI crude oil closed up 0.3% today, at $92.48 a barrel. Brent crude trades down 0.17% at $112.20 a barrel. Natural gas is up 4.8% today to $3.48 per thousand cubic feet. Gold closed at $1,783.30 an ounce, up 0.5%.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up nearly 78 points to 13,515.04 (0.58%), the NASDAQ fell nearly 3 points (-0.09%) to 3,113.53, and the S&P 500 rose 0.26% or nearly 4 points to 1,444.47.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Alcatel Lucent (NYSE: ALU) cut to ‘sell’ with a target price of $0.78 at UBS; ServiceNow Inc. (NYSE: NOW) cut to ‘sell’ with a target price of $28 at UBS; The Finish Line Inc. (NASDAQ: FINL) raised to ‘neutral’ at Sterne Agee; IAC/InteractiveCorp (NASDAQ: IACI) raised to ‘buy’ with a target price of $65 at Needham; and Inc. (NASDAQ: BIDU) cut to ‘hold’ with a target price of $125 at Jefferies.

Earnings reports since markets closed last Friday resulted in some price moves today, including these as of the last half hour of trading: Cal-Maine Foods Inc. (NASDAQ: CALM) is up 1.5% at $45.59 after posting a new 52-week high of $47.00 earlier today; Ferrellgas Partners LP (NYSE: FGP) is flat at $19.40 (more coverage here); and Synergetics USA Inc. (NASDAQ: SURG) is down 2.8% at $4.80.

Before markets open on Tuesday we are scheduled to hear from Team Inc. (NYSE: TISI), Zynga Inc. (NASDAQ: ZNGA), Acuity Brands Inc. (NYSE: AYI), and Mosaic Co. (NYSE: MOS).

Some standouts from today include the following stocks:

Ceradyne Inc. (NASDAQ: CRDN)) is up 43.3% at $34.99. The ceramic products maker is being acquired by 3M Co. (NYSE: MMM) for $860 million, or $35/share. More coverage here.

Fonar Corp. (NASDAQ: FONR) is up 30.4% at $4.89. The maker of upright and stand-up MRI machines reported much better than expected earnings this morning.

Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) is up 6.8% at $2.75. The handset maker will supply its mapping and location services software to Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL). More coverage here.

Stay tuned for Tuesday. Motor vehicles sales reports start coming out. We have noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 7:45 a.m. – ICSC-Goldman Sachs Store Sales
  • 8.55 a.m. – Redbook
  • 11.30 a.m. – 4-week bill auction

Paul Ausick

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