24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell -- October 9, 2012: Markets Slide Continues as Earnings Season Kicks Off (AAPL, JNJ, LAZ, NFLX, RSH, AA, YUM, COST, HELE, HST, VRNG, GOOG, ANR, BSDM, EW)

The three major U.S. stock indexes opened lower this morning following a lowered forecast on global economic growth from the International Monetary Fund (more coverage here). In Asia, Japanese markets are concerned over earnings at the country’s carmakers, while Chinese markets got a boost on the ever-present hope that the government would introduce another round of stimulus into the country’s economy. The energy sector, particularly oil prices, were higher over worries about the worsening relations between Turkey and Syria, which overrode the weaker economic news. Today’s auction of three-year U.S. Treasurys saw yields remain near record lows (more coverage here).

The U.S. dollar index rose today, now up 0.56% at 79.989. The GSCI commodity index is down 0.4% at 656.64, with commodities prices mostly higher today on the rising dollar. WTI crude oil closed up 3.4% today, at $92.39 a barrel. Brent crude trades 2.32% at $114.41 a barrel. Natural gas is up 2% today to $3.47 per thousand cubic feet. Gold closed at $1,765.00 an ounce, down 0.6%.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down about 109 points to 13,474.45 (-0.80%), the NASDAQ fell more than 47 points (-1.52%) to 3,065.02, and the S&P 500 fell 0.98% or more than 14 points to 1,441.49.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) reiterated as ‘outperform’ with a target price of $750 at Credit Suisse (more coverage here); Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) cut to ‘sell’ at Goldman Sachs; Lazard Ltd. (NYSE: LAZ) started as ‘sell’ at UBS and cut to ‘market perform’ at KBW; Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) cut to ‘underperform’ with a target price of $72 at BofA/ML (more coverage here); and RadioShack Corp. (NYSE: RSH) raised to ‘buy’ at BofA/ML (more coverage here).

There have been no earnings reports of note since the markets closed on last nigh. After the markets close today and before they open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear from Alcoa Inc. (NYSE: AA) (more coverage here), Yum! Brands Inc. (NYSE: YUM), Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST), Helen of Troy Ltd. (NASDAQ: HELE), and Host Hotels and Resorts Inc. (NYSE: HST).

Some standouts from today include the following stocks:

Vringo Inc. (NYSEMKT: VRNG) is down 15.6% at $4.58. The intellectual property firm today commenced the hearing phase of its patent lawsuit against Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG).

Alpha Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE: ANR) is up 7.2% at $7.27. Coal mining stocks got a boost in general today as cooler weather and rising natural gas prices combine to raise hopes for coal.

BSD Medical Corp. (NASDAQ: BSDM) is up 72% at $2.03. The medical equipment maker today announced that sales of a cancer treatment system increased by nearly 400% in September compared with September 2011.

Edwards Lifesciences Corp. (NYSE: EW) is down 20.4% at $85.55. The drugmaker reported that sales for the recent quarter would be lower than forecast. For a contrarian viewpoint, see our coverage here.

Stay tuned for Wednesday. Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota and Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher are giving speeches in the afternoon. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 7:00 a.m. – Mortgage Bankers Association purchase applications
  • 10:00 a.m. – Wholesale trade
  • 11:30 a.m. – 4-week bill auction
  • 1:00 p.m. – 10-year note auction
  • 2:00 p.m. – Beige book
  • 2:00 p.m. – Treasury budget

Paul Ausick

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