U.S. equity markets opened lower this morning, but climbed out of their hole early with a boost from the strong showing on consumer sentiment. In Asia, China posted retail sales and industrial production data that exceeded expectations. In Europe, markets were weaker generally on some comments from Germany’s economics ministry and forecast from France’s central bank that the country’s GDP would contract slightly in the fourth quarter. President Obama spoke today about the looming fiscal cliff, reiterating his call for tax hikes and spending cuts. The remarks chilled enthusiasm for equities in afternoon trading.
The U.S. dollar index rose today, now up 0.26% at 81.006. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.4% at 631.53, with commodities prices mixed today on the stronger dollar. WTI crude oil closed up 0.9% today, at $85.89 a barrel. Brent crude trades up about 1.8% at $109.17 a barrel. Natural gas is down 2.9% today at about $3.50 per thousand cubic feet. Gold closed at $1,730.90 an ounce, up 0.3% for the day and up more than 3% for the week.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 2 points to 12,813.93 (0.02%), the NASDAQ rose more than 9 points (0.32%) to 2,904.87, and the S&P 500 rose 0.17% or more than 2 points to 1,379.81.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) cut to ‘neutral’ at JPMorgan; Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) raised to ‘buy’ at Argus; First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) reiterated as ‘hold’ at Argus; Air Lease Corp. (NYSE: ATK) raised to ‘buy’ at Goldman Sachs; and 3M Co. (NYSE: MMM) raised to ‘neutral’ at Nomura.
Earnings reports since U.S. markets closed last night have resulted in some price moves today, including these as of the last half hour of trading: Career Education Corp. (NASDAQ: CECO) is down 14.2% at $2.93 after posting a new 52-week low of $2.91 earlier today; Kayak Software Corp. (NASDAQ: KYAK) is up 27.5% at $39.56; Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (NYSE: LGF) is up 15.4% at $16.85; Molycorp Inc. (NYSE: MCP) is down 13.3% at $7.53 after posting a new 52-week low of $7.42 earlier today; Nvidia Corp. (NASDAQ: NVDA) is down 3.6% at $12.22; Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) is down 5.9% at $47.10; Foster Wheeler AG (NASDAQ: FWLT) is up 2% at $22.91; and J.C. Penney Company Inc. (NYSE: JCP) is down 4.2% at $20.78.
Stein Mart Inc. (NASDAQ: SMRT) was scheduled to release earnings on Monday, but has delayed the report until the company is able to re-state results for fiscal years 2009 through 2011 and the first quarter of 2012. The company said that it does not expect any of the corrections to affect reported cash balances.
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ: GRPN) is down 29.6% at $2.76 after posting a new 52-week low of $2.73 earlier today. The daily deals company’s stock was pounded today following last night’s earnings report showing that growth is slowing down.
Zipcar Inc. (NASDAQ: ZIP) is up 16.6% at $7.04. The rental car company beat estimates for both the top and bottom lines last night.
James River Coal Co. (NASDAQ: JRCC) is down 19.7% at $2.70. The coal company’s shares are dropping on no news today, but a poor report yesterday from Walter Energy Inc. (NYSE: WLT) is doubtless weighing most on James River, the weakest stock in the sector.
Monday is Veteran’s Day in the U.S., and the bond market and banks will be closed. The stock markets will be open as usual. There are no scheduled data releases for Monday.
Have a great weekend!