U.S. equity markets opened slightly lower this morning following not-much in the way of new data and a wait-and-see attitude until tomorrow’s meeting announcement from the FOMC, which began a two-day meeting this afternoon. In Europe, French consumer sentiment came in as expected and Spanish retail sales declined more than expected. Consumer sentiment in Germany was slightly better than forecast as well. In Asia, the Bank of India lowered its interest rate 0.25%, as expected, and a report from UBS said that China may impose new policy restrictions including limits on automobile sales. In the U.S., the S&P/Case-Shiller house price index rose 5.5% month-over-month in November (more coverage here) and the Conference Board’s consumer sentiment index nose-dived (more coverage here). The 5-year Treasury note auction went off at slightly higher yields (more coverage here).
The U.S. dollar index fell 0.28% today, now at 79.547. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.4% at 665.33, with commodities prices mostly higher again today. WTI crude oil closed up 1.2% today, at $97.57 a barrel. Brent crude trades up 0.7% at $114.18 a barrel. Natural gas is down 1.9% today at about $3.23 per million BTUs. Gold settled up 0.5% today at $1,660.80 an ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 72 points to 13,954.57 (0.52%), the NASDAQ fell less than 1 point (-0.02%) to 3,153.66, and the S&P 500 rose 0.51% or nearly 8 points to 1,507.84.
There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ: STX) cut to ‘sell’ at Ameriprise and cut to ‘equal weight’ at Evercore Partners; Tyson Foods Inc. (NYSE: TSN) raised to ‘buy’ at BofA/ML; Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) reiterated as ‘buy’ and price target raised to $64 at Argus; Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE: ANF) raised to ‘outperform’ at BMO; and Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) raised to ‘outperform’ at BMO.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in several price moves today, including these: Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO) is down 2.4% at $19.83 (more coverage here); Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ: STX) is down 8.9% at $34.06; Steel Dynamics Inc. (NASDAQ: STLD) is up 2.8% at $15.42 (more steel coverage here); Boston Scientific Corp. (NYSE: BSX) is up 3.1% at $7.07 after posting a new 52-week high of $7.43 earlier today (more coverage here); D.R. Horton Inc. (NYSE: DHI) is up 12.3% at $23.93 after posting a new 52-week high of $24.03 earlier today; Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) is down 4.7% at $13.14 (more coverage here); Peabody Energy Corp. (NYSE: BTU) is up 5.7% at $26.59; Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) is up 3.6% at $27.82 after posting a new 52-week high of $27.84 earlier today; and Valero Energy Corp. (NYSE: VLO) is up 12.3% at $43.60 after posting a new 52-week high of $43.77 earlier today (more coverage here).
After markets close today and before they open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear from Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) (preview here), Broadcom Corp. (NASDAQ: BRCM), Ryland Group Inc. (NYSE: RYL), Robert Half International Inc. (NYSE: RHI), ADT Corp. (NYSE: ADT), L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. (NYSE: LLL), Phillips 66 (NYSE: PSX) (more coverage here), Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE: NOC), and Southern Co. (NYSE: SO).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Keryx Biopharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: KERX) is up 43% at $8.66 after posting a second-consecutive new 52-week high of $8.79 earlier today. The biopharma company reported better-than-expected results in trials of a new kidney drug on Monday and the glow is still golden.
VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) is down 20.9% at $77.80 after posting a new 52-week low of $76.33 earlier today. The enterprise software company posted decent results last night, but the outlook sank shares today. (more coverage here)
OCZ Technology Group Inc. (NASDAQ: OCZ) is down 15.7% at $2.26. The solid-state drive maker crumbled on news that Seagate invested in another solid-state drive maker last night. Hopes had been high that the disk drive giant might acquire OCZ.
Stay tuned for Wednesday. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) concludes its two-day meeting today. We have noted the following event on the schedule (all times Eastern):
7:00 a.m. – Mortgage Bankers Association purchase applications
8:15 a.m. – ADP employment report
8:30 a.m. – GDP (consensus estimate calls for growth of 1%)
10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report
1:00 p.m. – 7-year Treasury note auction
2:15 p.m. – FOMC meeting announcement