U.S. equity markets opened flat to lower this morning as the clock ticked down to the final hours in negotiations related to the U.S. fiscal cliff. Share prices edged upward for most of the day and a late statement from Senator Mitch McConnell that an agreement had been reached on all tax issues added a bit more upside. In Europe, the year ended with U.K. stocks up 7%, French stocks up 19%, and German stocks up 32%. One bit of good news for the wealthy in France: the country’s highest court struck down the 75% tax rate on citizens earning more than €1 million. Returns in Asia were also higher in Hong Kong (up 22%) and Japan (up 23%), but merely flat in China. U.S. markets are closed tomorrow for New Year’s Day.
The U.S. dollar index rose rose 0.06% today, now at 79.728. The GSCI commodity index is down 0.2% at 644.43, with commodities prices mixed today. WTI crude oil closed up 1.1% today, at $91.82 a barrel, but closed the year down 7.1%. Brent crude trades up 0.4% at $111.11 a barrel. Natural gas is down 3.3% today at about $3.35 per thousand cubic feet. Gold settled up 1.2% today at $1,675.80 an ounce, and closed the year up 7%. Silver rose 8.3% for the year.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 168 points to 13,106.22 (1.30%), the NASDAQ rose more than 59 points (2.00%) to 3,019.51, and the S&P 500 rose 1.70% or nearly 24 points to 1,426.33.
There were a few analyst upgrades and downgrades of note today, including Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) raised to ‘outperform’ with a price target of $32 at BMO Capital Markets; IntercontinentalExchange Inc. (NYSE: ICE) cut to ‘market perform’ with a price target of $150 at Bernstein; and Bristol Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE: BMY) raised to ‘neutral’ at Atlantic Securities.
There were no earnings reports of note today and none are scheduled for Wednesday.
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Amyris Inc. (NASDAQ: AMRS) is up 25.9% at $3.09. The renewable fuel and products maker jumped on reports of massive insider buying.
Alon USA Energy Inc. (NYSE: ALJ) is up 19.6% at $18.11 after posting a new 52-week high of $18.18 earlier today. The oil refining company got a ‘buy’ rating from Goldman Sachs on the strength of its spin-off of master limited partnership Alon USA Partners LP (NYSE: ALDW).
Stay tuned for Wednesday. Remember, U.S. markets are closed tomorrow. We have noted the following events on Wednesday’s schedule (all times Eastern):
- 7:00 a.m. – Mortgage Bankers Association purchase applications
- 8:58 a.m. – PMI manufacturing survey
- 10:00 a.m. – Institute for Supply Management manufacturing index
- 10:00 a.m. – Construction spending
- 11:30 a.m. – 4-week bill auction
- 1:00 p.m. – 3- and 6-month bill auctions
- 2:00 p.m. – FOMC minutes
Have a Happy New Year!