U.S. equity markets opened flat this morning following not much in the way of data from either Asia or Europe. In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants the European Central Bank to limit its bond buying from the countries that need it most. That won’t settle things down much in the eurozone. In Asia, Japan’s legislature has been dissolved and new elections are coming. And in the Middle East, the flare-up between Israel and Hamas has had an impact on the price of crude oil. In the U.S. there was little new data out today. Industrial production fell and capacity utilization was lower, both signs of contraction (more coverage here). One bright spot occurred around noon, when Congressional leaders said that discussions with President Obama on avoiding the fiscal cliff were encouraging (more coverage here).
The U.S. dollar index rose today, now up 0.23% at 81.263. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.5% at 634.10, with commodities prices mixed today. WTI crude oil closed up 1.4% today, at $86.67 a barrel, and posted a gain of 0.7% for the week. Brent crude trades down about 0.9% at $108.93 a barrel. Natural gas is up 2.3% today at about $3.79 per thousand cubic feet. Gold settled up less than 0.1% today at $1,714.70 an ounce, and finished the week down 0.9%.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up nearly 46 points to 12,588.23 (0.37%), the NASDAQ rose more than 16 points (0.57%) to 2,853.13, and the S&P 500 rose 0.48% or more than 6 points to 1,359.87.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including JetBlue Airways Corp. (NASDAQ: JBLU) cut to ‘sell’ at Goldman Sachs; Frontier Communications Corp. (NASDAQ: FTR) cut to ‘sell’ at Goldman Sachs; SeaDrill Ltd. (NYSE: SDRL) raised to ‘outperform’ at Credit Suisse; Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (NASDAQ: CHKP) started as ‘outperform’ at Wells Fargo; and Annaly Capital Management Inc. (NYSE: NLY) raised to ‘outperform’ at Wells Fargo.
Earnings reports of interest since U.S. markets closed last night have resulted in some price moves today, including these as of the last half hour of trading: Applied Materials Inc. (NASDAQ: AMAT) is down 1.6% at $10.14 after posting a new 52-week low of $9.95 (more coverage here); Autodesk Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) is up 3.5% at $31.57; Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL) is down 7.4% at $8.85 after posting a new 52-week low of $8.69 earlier today (more coverage here); Gap Inc. (NYSE: GPS) is up 1.1% at $33.62 (more coverage here); Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (NASDAQ: MRVL) is down 0.4% at $7.39 after posting a new 52-week low of $7.05 earlier today; Sears Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: SHLD) is down 18.4% at $47.73; Foot Locker Inc. (NYSE: FL) is up 4.8% at $33.37 (more coverage here); and J.M. Smucker Co. (NYSE: SJM) is down 1.7% at $83.90 (more coverage here).
After markets close today and before they open Monday morning we are scheduled to hear from Hastings Entertainment Inc. (NASDAQ: HAST), Lowe’s Companies Inc. (NYSE: LOW), and Tyson Foods Inc. (NYSE: TSN).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Ruckus Wireless Inc. (NYSE: RKUS) is down 10.3% at $13.42. The wireless equipment provider held its IPO today and its been a roller coaster ride, mostly headed down in the afternoon from an offering price of $15 a share. More coverage here.
Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) is up 5.5% at $23.39. The social media company’s new e-commerce product, Gifts, is a big hit with investors.
Penn National Gaming Inc. (NASDAQ: PENN) is up 29.67% at $48.77 after posting a new 52-week high of $50.50 earlier today. The casino owner and operator is spinning off much of its real estate into a REIT. More coverage here.
Stay tuned for Monday. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 10:00 a.m. – Existing home sales
- 10:00 a.m. – Housing market index
- 11:30 a.m. – 3- and 6-month Treasury bill auctions
Have a great weekend!