U.S. equity markets opened higher this morning after the weekly report on new claims for U.S. unemployment benefits came in lower than expected (more coverage here) and the second estimate of GDP indicated growth of 2.7% (more coverage here). In Asia, markets were generally higher on comments yesterday that negotiations on a solution the U.S. fiscal cliff were making progress. Shanghai was the exception, posting its lowest close in nearly four years. In Europe, Germany reported a 6.9% unemployment rate, as expected, (more coverage here) and a survey of eurozone business and consumer sentiment came in higher than expected. U.S. pending home sales rose sharply (more coverage here), but November same-store sales were disappointing (more coverage here). Equities dipped smartly when House Speaker Boehner denied that “substantive progress” had been made on fiscal cliff talks.
The U.S. dollar index fell today, now down 0.2% at 80.203. The GSCI commodity index is down 0.5% at 642.59, with commodities prices mixed today. WTI crude oil closed up 1.8% today, at $88.07 a barrel. Brent crude trades up 1% at $110.60 a barrel. Natural gas is down nearly 4% today at about $3.65 per thousand cubic feet, following the weekly storage report (more coverage here). Gold settled up 0.6% today at $1,727.20 an ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up nearly 37 points to 13,021.82 (0.28%), the NASDAQ rose more than 20 points (0.68%) to 3,012.03, and the S&P 500 rose 0.43% or about 6 points to 1,415.97.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including NetApp Inc. (NASDAQ: NTAP) started as ‘underperform’ at CLSA; LinnCo LLC (NASDAQ: LNCO) started as ‘buy’ at Citi; IAC/InteractiveCorp (NASDAQ: IACI) raised to ‘outperform’ at Wells Fargo; CarMax Inc. (NYSE: KMX) raised to ‘buy’ with a price target of $42 at Goldman Sachs; and Cree Inc. (NASDAQ: CREE) cut to ‘hold’ at Deutsche Bank.
Earnings reports of interest since U.S. markets closed last night have resulted in price moves today, including these as of the last half hour of trading: Aeropostale Inc. (NYSE: ARO) is down 5.1% at $13.41 (more coverage here); Guess? Inc. (NYSE: GES) is up 2.3% at $25.84; Tivo Inc. (NASDAQ: TIVO) is up 6.5% at $11.56; Workday Inc. (NYSE: WDAY) is down 2.8% at $51.68; Barnes & Noble Inc. (NYSE: BKS) is 12.1% at $14.11 (more coverage here); Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) is up 5% at $26.31 after posting a new 52-week high of $26.40 earlier today (more coverage here); Royal Bank of Canada (NYSE: RY) is up 0.4% at $59.05; and Tiffany & Co. (NYSE: TIF) is down 7% at $59.30 (more coverage here).
After markets close today and before they open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear from Avago Technologies Ltd. (NASDAQ: AVGO), OmniVision Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: OVTI), Youku Tudou Inc. (NYSE: YOKU), Zumiez Inc. (NASDAQ: ZUMZ), ReneSola Ltd. (NYSE: SOL), and WhiteWave Foods Co. (NYSE: WWAV).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
InfoBlox Inc. (NASDAQ: BLOX) is up 32.3% at $18.45. The automated network control maker handily beat expectations and raises guidance. More coverage here.
Kohl’s Corp. (NYSE: KSS) is down 10.9% at $45.56. The retailer posted a big decline in November same-store sales and third quarter revenues did not meet expectations..
Stay tuned for Friday. Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota is giving a speech. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
8:30 a.m. – Personal income and spending
9:45 a.m. – Chicago PMI
3:00 p.m. – Farm prices