24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell -- March 8, 2013: Markets Maintain Buying Trend (TIF, SKUL, TWX, HL, AAPL, FNSR, HRB, P, WDAY, ANN, FL, CSIQ, CHYR, DKS, RENN, P, VALE, VOD)

U.S. equity markets opened higher this morning mostly on the strength of a far-better-than-expected report on U.S. non-farm payrolls and a lower-than-expected unemployment rate of 7.7% (more coverage here). In Europe, German industrial production was flat while Spain’s declined a bit less than estimated. The French prime minister said the county needs to save €5 billion in spending this year, and he expects to achieve that through spending cuts. In Asia, Japan’s GDP growth for the fourth quarter was revised to flat with the previous year, again better than expected. The country also posted a small — and unexpected — trade surplus. China’s trade surplus was also larger than expected, likely due to the impact of the lunar new year holiday in February. Fitch downgraded Italy’s sovereign debt shortly after noon, briefly chilling investors (more coverage here).

The U.S. dollar index rose 0.73% today, now at 82.686. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.8% at 646.65, with commodities prices mixed today. WTI crude oil closed up 0.4% today, at $91.95 a barrel, up 1.4% for the week. Brent crude trades down 0.3% at $110.85 a barrel. Natural gas is up 1.3% today at about $3.63 per million BTUs. Gold settled up fractionally today at $1,576.90 an ounce, and up 0.3% for the week.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up about 63 points to 14,392.46 (0.44%), the NASDAQ rose about 12 points (0.38%) to 3,244.35, and the S&P 500 rose 0.42% or more than 6 points to 1,550.77.

There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Tiffany & Co. (NYSE: TIF) cut to ‘sell’ at Canaccord Genuity; Skullcandy Inc. (NASDAQ: SKUL) cut to ‘underweight’ at Piper Jaffray and cut to ‘underperform’ at Raymond James and D.A. Davidson; Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) raised to ‘buy’ with a price target of $68 at Argus; Hecla Mining Co. (NYSE: HL) raised to ‘buy’ at Global Hunter; and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) reiterated as ‘outperform’ with a price target of $600 at Credit Suisse.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in several price moves today, including these: Finisar Corp. (NASDAQ: FNSR) is down 8.7% at $14.46; H & R Block Inc. (NYSE: HRB) is up 9.2% at $27.27 after posting a new 52-week high of $27.50 earlier today; Pandora Media Inc. (NYSE: P) is up 17.1% at $13.74 after posting a new 52-week high of $14.70 earlier today (more coverage here); Workday Inc. (NASDAQ: WDAY) is up 0.9% at $62.20; Ann Inc. (NYSE: ANN) is up 7.7% at $31.23; and Foot Locker Inc. (NYSE: FL) is down 6.9% at $32.89 (more coverage here).

Before markets open Monday morning we are scheduled to hear from Canadian Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: CSIQ), Chyron Corp. (NASDAQ: CHYR), Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. (NYSE: DKS), and Renren Inc. (NASDAQ: RENN).

Some standouts among high-volume stocks today include:

Pandora Media Inc. (NYSE: P) is up 17.1% at $13.74. This Internet radio company not only posted results that investors liked, the company’s CEO announced that he is leaving.

Vale SA (NYSE: VALE) is down 2.3% at $18.67. The Brazilian mining company faces the dim prospect of falling iron ore prices in 2013. Shares are down 11% since the beginning of the year.

Vodafone Group plc (NASDAQ: VOD) is up 2.8% at $27.72. The mobile phone carrier hasn’t yet exhausted the glow from talk of a possible merger or buyout of its stake in Verizon Wireless.

Stay tuned for Monday. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 11:30 a.m. – 3- and 6-month bill auctions

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