24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell -- October 16, 2012: Markets Up on Consumer Confidence, Homebuilders (S, RVBD, WPI, HAL, KR, PKG, WDFC, FRX, GS, JNJ, MAT, PNC, KO, UNH, GWW, WWW, C, INTC, IBM, CSX, URI, ABT, BK, BLK, CHKP, CMA, HAL, KCG, PEP, USB, CLWR, RATE, NOK, MSFT)

The three major U.S. stock indexes opened higher this morning following a report that economic sentiment in Germany came in better than expected (more coverage here) and that U.K. inflation was lower than expected (more coverage here). There are also renewed expectations that Spain will accept a bailout from the European Central Bank. In Asia, markets had little data to chew on, and instead followed yesterday’s gains on Wall Street. In the U.S., the September CPI readings, both headline and core numbers, came in at 0.6% and 0.1%, respectively, a little higher than expected on the headline reading and a little lower on the core reading (more coverage here). The NAHB’s housing market index for October came in at a six-year high (more coverage here) and U.S. consumers also registered more economic confidence (more coverage here).

The U.S. dollar index fell today, now down 0.44% at 79.395, and the euro ticked back above $1.30. The GSCI commodity index is down fractionally at 663.08, with commodities prices mostly higher today on the weaker dollar. WTI crude oil closed 0.3% higher today, at $92.09 a barrel. Brent crude trades down 0.24% at $114.12 a barrel. Natural gas is down 1.4% today at about $3.44 per thousand cubic feet. Gold closed at $1,746.30 an ounce, up 0.5% for the day.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 127 points to 13,551.78 (0.95%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 37 points (1.21%) to 3,101.17, and the S&P 500 rose 1.03% or nearly 15 points to 1,454.93.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S) raised to ‘market perform’ at Bernstein and raised to ‘neutral’ at R.W. Baird; Riverbed Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: RVBD) cut to ‘neutral’ at Citigroup; Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NYSE: WPI) reiterated as ‘buy’ with target price of $100 at Canaccord Genuity; Halliburton Co. (NYSE: HAL) started as ‘outperform’ at Credit Suisse (more coverage here); and Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) raised to ‘buy’ at Jefferies.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in some price moves today, including these as of the last half hour of trading: Packaging Corp. of America (NYSE: PKG) is up 1.9% at $36.28 after posting a new 52-week high of $36.96 earlier today; WD-40 Co. (NASDAQ: WDFC) is down 6.8% at $47.56; Forest Laboratories Inc. (NYSE: FRX) is down 3% at $35.50; Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) is down 0.7% at $123.60 (more coverage here); Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) is up 1.2% at $69.42 after posting a new 52-week high of $69.80 earlier today (more coverage here); Mattel Inc. (NYSE: MAT) is up 5.1% at $37.23 after posting a new 52-week high of $37.31 earlier today; PNC Financial Services Group Inc. (NYSE: PNC) is down 4% at $60.42; The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) is down 1% at $37.76 (more coverage here); UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) is down 1.2% at $56.81 (more coverage here); W.W. Grainger Inc. (NYSE: GWW) is down 2.6% at $210.34; and Wolverine Worldwide Inc. (NYSE: WWW) is down 2.5% at $44.50.

Today’s shocker was the sudden resignation of Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) CEO Vikram Pandit (more coverage here). We suggested 10 reasons for the abrupt departure and covered Pandit’s comments here.

Before markets open tomorrow we are scheduled to hear from Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC), International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM), CSX Corp. (NYSE: CSX), United Rentals Inc. (NYSE: URI), Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT), Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (NYSE: BK), BlackRock Inc. (NYSE: BLK), Check Point Software Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: CHKP), Comerica Inc. (NYSE: CMA), Halliburton Co. (NYSE: HAL), Knight Capital Group Inc. (NYSE: KCG), PepsiCo Inc. (NYSE: PEP), and U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB).

Some standouts from today include the following stocks:

Clearwire Corp. (NASDAQ: CLWR) is down 19.7% at $2.24. Reality set in for investors after Sprint and SoftBank denied speculation that one would make a larger investment in the wireless carrier. More coverage here.

Bankrate Inc. (NYSE: RATE) is down 24.8% at $10.90 after posting a new 52-week low of $10.30 earlier today. The personal finance company guided revenue and earnings lower after markets closed last night. More coverage here.

Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) is up 6% at $2.84. The mobile phone maker might have gotten a boost from Microsoft Corp.’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) announced availability of the Surface tablet — either that or the company’s earnings results, which are due Thursday. Most likely reason – short covering.

Stay tuned for Wednesday. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 7:00 a.m. – Mortgage Bankers Association purchase applications
  • 8:30 a.m. – Housing starts
  • 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report

Paul Ausick

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