U.S. equity markets opened higher this morning as they awaited results from the Italian elections. Early exit polls had the center-left party of Pier Luigi Bersani in the lead, but as returns came in, former prime minister Berlusconi took the lead, sending markets tumbling. There was no data release of note in the U.S. today, and scant data elsewhere. In Asia, the HSBC manufacturing PMI for China came in lower than expected, but news that Japan’s central bank would install a banker who supports Prime Minister Abe’s plan for more aggressive easing lifted Asian stocks. In the U.S., stocks trailed lower after the higher opening as the federal budget sequester gets one day closer to reality (more coverage here).
The U.S. dollar index rose 0.37% today, now at 81.798. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.1% at 658.12, with commodities prices mixed today on the stronger dollar. WTI crude oil closed down fractionally today, at $93.11 a barrel. Brent crude trades up 0.3% at $114.41 a barrel. Natural gas is up 3.6% today at about $3.28 per million BTUs. Gold settled up 0.9% today at $1,586.60 an ounce, the largest one-day gain so far this month.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down about 214 points to 13,768.32 (-1.53%), the NASDAQ fell more than 45 points (-1.44%) to 3,116.28, and the S&P 500 -1.82% or more than 27 points to 1,488.03.
There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG) reiterated as ‘buy’ and price target raised to $45 at Argus; Safeway Inc. (NYSE: SWY) raised to ‘neutral’ at BofA/Merrill Lynch; Occidental Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: OXY) raised to ‘outperform’; at Raymond James; Pan American Silver Corp. (NASDAQ: PAAS) raised to ‘buy’ at Canaccord Genuity; and VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) raised to ‘neutral’ at Citigroup.
Earnings reports since markets closed last Friday resulted in several price moves today, including these: Firstenergy Corp. (NYSE: FE) is down 2% at $39.75; Hecla Mining Co. (NYSE: HL) is up 1.4% at $4.94; Hertz Global Holdings Inc. (NYSE: HTZ) is up 2.9% at $19.27 after posting a new 52-week high of $20.35 earlier today; Lowe’s Companies Inc. (NYSE: LOW) is down 4.1% at $36.13 (more coverage here); and Quicksilver Resources Inc. (NYSE: KWK) is down 9.5% at $1.81.
After markets close today and before they open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear from Autodesk Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK), Oneok Inc. (NYSE: OKE), Tumi Holdings Inc. (NYSE: TUMI), Vivus Inc. (NASDAQ: VVUS), Autozone Inc. (NYSE: AZO), Boise Inc. (NYSE: BZ), HollyFrontier Corp. (NYSE: HFC), Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD), Macy’s Inc. (NYSE: M), Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. (NYSE: MSO), RadioShack Corp. (NYSE: RSH), Saks Inc. (NYSE: SKS), Tenet Healthcare Corp. (NYSE: THC), and Trina Solar Ltd. (NYSE: TSL).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
Affymax Inc. (NASDAQ: AFFY) is down 85.3% at $2.43 after posting a new 52-week low of $2.34 earlier today. The biotech firm is voluntarily recalling its dialysis drug after some patients exhibited hypersensitivity reactions. More coverage here.
Stay tuned for Tuesday. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is giving his semi-annual testimony to the Senate Banking Committee. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 9:00 a.m. – Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA) house price index
- 9:00 a.m. – S&P/Case-Shiller house price index
- 10:00 a.m. – New home sales
- 10:00 a.m. – Conference Board consumer confidence index
- 10:00 a.m. – Richmond Fed manufacturing index
- 11:30 a.m. – 4-week bill auctions
- 1:00 p.m. – 5-year note auction
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