U.S. equity markets opened about flat this morning, then ticked upward briefly before moving to lows in the early afternoon. Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner said that the country’s debt ceiling will be reached on December 31st and that he will adopt measures to keep the government running for about two months. Late in the day reports that the U.S. House will convene on Sunday have sent hopes of a budget resolution up, and boosted share prices. In Europe this morning, France and Italy both beat estimates of consumer confidence levels and Spain said its budget deficit was less than half the expected shortfall. In Asia, South Korea cut its 2012 GDP growth forecast from 3.3% to 2.1%. Until the U.S. either tumbles off or stops short of the fiscal cliff, that story will dominate share price action.
The U.S. dollar index rose fractionally today, now at 79.603. The GSCI commodity index is up 1.3% at 646.31, with commodities prices mostly lower today. WTI crude oil closed down fractionally today, at $90.87 a barrel. Brent crude trades up 0.1% at $111.20 a barrel. Natural gas is down 1.1% today at about $3.35 per thousand cubic feet. Gold settled up 0.2% today at $1,663.70 an ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 18 points to 13,096.23 (-0.14%), the NASDAQ fell more than 4 points (-0.14%) to 2,985.91, and the S&P 500 fell -0.12% or nearly 2 points to 1,418.10.
There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Burger King Worldwide Inc. (NYSE: BKW) started as ‘neutral’ with a target price of $18 at Buckingham Research; Gap Stores Inc. (NYSE: GPS) raised to ‘hold’ at Standpoint Research; Big 5 Sporting Goods Corp. (NASDAQ: BGFV) raised to ‘outperform’ at Zacks; Chemtura Corp. (NYSE: CHMT) raised to ‘buy’ at Longbow Research; and Fusion-io Inc. (NYSE: FIO) raised to ‘outperform’ at Zacks.
There were no earnings reports of note today and none are scheduled for tomorrow.
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
BCD Semiconductor Manufacturing Ltd. (NASDAQ: BCDS) is up 87.8% at $7.47 after posting a new 52-week high of $7.80 earlier today. The Chinese maker of power management chips is being acquired by Diodes Inc. (NASDAQ: DIOD) for about $151 million.
Deckers Outdoor Corp. (NASDAQ: DECK) is up 9.2% at $38.08. The footwear maker gets a boost from short covering today.
Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (NASDAQ: MRVL) is down 3.2% at $7.17 after posting a new 52-week low of $6.95 earlier today. The chip maker lost a patent infringement trial in federal court and has been told to pay $1.1 billion in damages. More coverage here.
Stay tuned for Friday. We have noted the following events on the schedule for tomorrow (all times Eastern):
- 9:45 a.m. – Chicago PMI
- 10:00 a.m. – Pending home sales
- 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly natural gas storage report
- 11:00 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report