U.S. equity markets opened higher this morning and it didn’t take long for the DJIA to blow past its all-time intra-day high of 14,198.10 (more coverage here). There was a little news and data to give the markets a push as well. In Asia, China’s ruling body reiterated its GDP growth target of 7.5% and its inflation target to 3.5% (more coverage here). The country’s finance ministry said it is planning for a budget deficit of 2% of GDP in 2013 and expects to double spending on the Chinese military. In Europe, services PMI readings were mixed but better and retail sales rose more than expected. U.S. services PMI also rose slightly in February.
The U.S. dollar index fell 0.13% today, now at 82.092. The GSCI commodity index is down 0.4% at 640.41, with commodities prices mostly higher again today. WTI crude oil closed up 0.8% today, at $90.82 a barrel. Brent crude trades up 1.5% at $111.69 a barrel. Natural gas is down 0.4% today at about $3.52 per million BTUs. Gold settled up 0.2% today at $1,574.90 an ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 126 points to 14,253.77 (an all-time closing high) (0.89%), the NASDAQ rose about 42 points (1.32%) to 3,224.13, and the S&P 500 rose 0.96% or more than 14 points to 1,539.79.
There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) started as ‘outperform’ at RBC; Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO) raised to ‘buy’ at Cantor Fitzgerald; Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE: CLF) cut to ‘market perform’ at BMO; Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) started as ‘outperform’ with a price target of $48 at Credit Suisse; and Apollo Group Inc. (NASDAQ: APOL) raised to ‘hold’ at Deutsche Bank (more coverage here).
Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in several price moves today, including these: Checkpoint Systems Inc. (NYSE: CKP) is up 7% at $12.40 after posting a new 52-week high of $12.70 earlier today; Constellation Energy Partners LLC (NYSEMKT: CEP) is down 5% at $1.72; and American Apparel Inc. (NYSEMKT: APP) is up 18.6% at $1.53.
Before markets open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear from Gevo Inc. (NASDAQ: GEVO), Qihoo 360 Technology Co. Ltd. (NASDAQ: QIHU), Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. (NASDAQ: SWHC), Verifone Systems Inc. (NYSE: PAY), American Eagle Outfitters Inc. (NYSE: AEO), Big Lots Inc. (NYSE: BIG), Fresh Market Inc. (NYSE: TFM), Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. (NYSE: HOV), Staples Inc. (NASDAQ: SPLS), and Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. (NYSE: STP).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
MGIC Investment Corp. (NYSE: MTG) is up 24.4% at $5.20 after posting a new 52-week high of $5.37 earlier today. The insurance company continues to be in favor with investors who believe the housing market is poised for a strong comeback.
Cree Inc. (NASDAQ: CREE) is up 13.6% at $50.80 after posting a new 52-week high of $52.35 earlier today. The maker of LED lighting introduced a new product today that has been called “groundbreaking.”
Vodafone Group plc (NASDAQ: VOD) is up 5.3% at $26.71. The mobile carrier is reported to be in talks again with Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) regarding a merger or Verizon buyout of Vodafone’s stake in Verizon Wireless. More coverage here.
Stay tuned for Wednesday. Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser and Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher are giving speeches. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 7:00 a.m. – Mortgage Bankers Association purchase applications
- 8:15 a.m. – ADP employment report
- 10:00 a.m. – Factory orders
- 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report
- 2:00 p.m. – Federal Reserve Beige Book
- 3:00 p.m. – Treasury STRIPS
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