U.S. equity markets opened lower this morning following last night’s failure by the U.S. House of Representatives to hold a vote on a plan to deal with the country’s budget deficit. In Europe, Germany’s consumer climate reading was higher than expected, but the U.K.’s GDP growth was revised downward. In Asia, markets reacted strongly to the failed U.S. House vote. A number of data points were released in the U.S. today. Durable goods orders and personal spending were better than expected (more coverage here). The consumer sentiment index reading was lower than expected, down from 74.5 last month to 72.9 in December. Equities traded solidly lower all day — a quadruple-witching day — with index futures, index options, stock options, and single stock futures all expiring. U.S. markets close early on Monday and are closed all day Tuesday for the Christmas holiday.
The U.S. dollar index rose sharply today, now up 0.45% at 79.609. The GSCI commodity index is down 0.2% at 643.49, with commodities prices mostly higher today. WTI crude oil closed down 1.6% today, at $88.66 a barrel, for a weekly gain of 2.2%. Brent crude trades down 1% at $109.06 a barrel. Natural gas is down 0.4% today at about $3.45 per thousand cubic feet. Gold settled up 0.9% today at $1,660.10 an ounce,but posted a loss of 2.2% for the week.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down about 119 points to 13,192.61 (-0.89%), the NASDAQ fell more than 29 points (-0.96%) to 3,021.01, and the S&P 500 fell -0.94% or more than 13 points to 1,430.17.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Allscripts Healthcare Solutions Inc. (NASDAQ: MDRX) cut to ‘hold’ at Argus; Goldcorp Inc. (NYSE: GG) cut to ‘neutral’ at Credit Suisse; Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE) cut to ‘neutral’ at Janney; Brinker International Inc. (NYSE: EAT) raised to ‘buy’ at Sterne Agee; and Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) cut to ‘market perform’ at FBR Capital Markets and reiterated as ‘buy’ at BofA/ML.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night have resulted in the following price change as of the last half hour of trading today: Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE) is up 6.3% at $105.27; Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT) is up 4.5% at $54.96; and Walgreen Co. (NYSE: WAG) is down 3.1% at $36.38 (more coverage here).
After markets close today and before they open on Wednesday morning we are scheduled to hear only from Stein Mart Inc. (NASDAQ: SMRT).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Ameristar Casinos Inc. (NASDAQ: ASCA) is up 19.6% at $26.40 after posting a new 52-week high of $26.59 earlier today. The casino operator is being acquired by competitor Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. (NYSE: PNK) for $26.50 a share. More coverage here.
Daquo New Energy Corp. (NYSE: DQ) is up 421.5% at $6.26. The Chinese maker of polysilicon for solar panel manufacturing raised the number of common shares in one U.S. American Depositary Share (ADS) from 5 to 25.
Herbalife Inc. (NYSE: HLF) is down 20.8% at $26.68 after posting a new 52-week low of $26.04 earlier today. The nutrition and weight-loss food maker has been hammered by comments from William Ackman, who holds a massive short position in the stock. More coverage here.
Stay tuned for next Wednesday. U.S. markets close at 1:00 p.m. on Monday and are closed all day Tuesday for the Christmas holiday. No data releases are scheduled for Monday. We have noted the following events on the schedule for Wednesday (all times Eastern):
- 7:00 a.m. – Mortgage Bankers Association purchase applications
- 9:00 a.m. – S&P Case-Shiller housing price index
- 10:00 a.m. – Richmond Fed manufacturing index
- 11:30 a.m. – 4-week Treasury bill auction
- 1:00 p.m. – 3- and 6-month Treasury bill auctions
Have a great weekend!