U.S. equity markets opened higher this morning and trickled lower most of the day as there was little news to follow generally good data from around the globe. In Japan, the central bank held interest rates and asset purchases at previous levels. In Europe, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank also left rates unchanged (more coverage here). French unemployment was higher than expected, as was France’s trade deficit. In the U.S., fourth quarter productivity was reported down and unit labor costs were higher. The new claims for jobless benefits fell, but the army of the unemployed grew (more coverage here). Tomorrow’s reports on non-farm payrolls and the U.S. unemployment rate are expected to show 171,00 more jobs and a drop in the unemployment rate from 7.9% to 7.8%
The U.S. dollar index fell 0.45% today, now at 82.089. The GSCI commodity index is down 0.7% at 641.74, with commodities prices mostly higher today. WTI crude oil closed up 1.3% today, at $91.56 a barrel. Brent crude trades up 0.4% at $111.10 a barrel. Natural gas is up 3.3% today at about $3.58 per million BTUs after a larger-than-expected drawdown on stocks (more coverage here). Gold settled up fractionally today at $1,575.10 an ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 33 points to 14,329.57 (0.23%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 10 points (0.30%) to 3,232.09, and the S&P 500 rose 0.18% or nearly 3 points to 1,544.28.
There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including SAP AG (NYSE: SAP) raised to ‘overweight’ at HSBC; Clean Harbors Inc. (NYSE: CLH) raised to ‘outperform’ at Baird; Angie’s List Inc. (NASDAQ: ANGI) started as ‘overweight’ at Piper Jaffray; SandRidge Energy Inc. (NYSE: SD) cut to ‘underperform’ at BMO; and Big Lots Inc. (NYSE: BIG) raised to ‘hold’ at Deutsche Bank, cut to ‘hold’ at Canaccord Genuity, and cut to ‘underperform’ at Raymond James.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in several price moves today, including these: Alon USA Energy Inc. (NYSE: ALJ) is down 4% at $19.00; PetSmart Inc. (NASDAQ: PETM) is down 6.6% at $62.17; Vail Resorts Inc. (NYSE: MTN) is up 7.4% at $60.87 after posting a new 52-week high of $61.83 earlier today; Ciena Corp. (NASDAQ: CIEN) is up 18.3% at $17.67; E Commerce China Dangdang Inc. (NASDAQ: DANG) is down 5.7% at $3.94; James River Coal Co. (NASDAQ: JRCC) is down 6.7% at $2.38; Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) is up 3.3% at $30.34 after posting a new 52-week high of $30.62 earlier today (more coverage here); and Smithfield Foods Inc. (NYSE: SFD) is up 9.6% at $24.43 after posting a new 52-week high of $25.03 earlier today (more coverage here).
Before markets open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear from Finisar Corp. (NASDAQ: FNSR), H & R Block Inc. (NYSE: HRB), Pandora Media Inc. (NYSE: P), Workday Inc. (NYSE: WDAY), Ann Inc. (NYSE: ANN), and Foot Locker Inc. (NYSE: FL).
Some standouts among high-volume stocks today include:
Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD) is up 4.1% at $2.53. This chipmaker had no news today, but the enthusiasm over the company’s inclusion in the coming PlayStation 4 continues.
Petroleo Brasileiro SA (NYSE: PBR) is up 5.1% at $17.53. The Brazilian oil & gas firm pushed higher for the second day in a row following the announcement of its hike to diesel fuel prices.
Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) is up 4.2% at $28.61. The social network company announced a new look for its news feed today, making room for more ads and pushing stock prices up.
Stay tuned for Friday. Fed Governor Elizabeth Duke is giving a speech. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 8:30 a.m. – Employment: non-farm payroll, unemployment rate
- 10:00 a.m. – Wholesale trade
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