24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell -- March 13, 2013: Markets Hold On for Small Gains (BA, ORCL, WAG, YUM, EPB, DOLE, COOL, PPHM, EXPR, BFAM, MW, VRA, LODE, SOL, SPPI, VLO, EBAY)

U.S. equity markets opened slightly lower this morning following on some poor data on eurozone industrial production, which fell more than expected. Non-farm payrolls fell more than expected in France and the country’s CPI rose less than analysts had forecast. There was no data out of Asia this morning, but there are worries that China will tighten lending requirements for home purchases as the country tries to cool off the real estate market. In the U.S., retail sales came in better than expected (more coverage here), but new applications for mortgages fell as interest rates rose (more coverage here). The Business Roundtable released its economic outlook for spring, which suggests that sales and capital spending will rise, but hiring will remain slow (more coverage here).

The U.S. dollar index rose 0.34% today, now at 82.865. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.1% at 649.62, with commodities prices mostly lower today. WTI crude oil closed down fractionally today, at $92.52 a barrel, following the release of the EIA’s inventory report (more coverage here). Brent crude trades down 1.2% at $108.40 a barrel. Natural gas is up 1% today at about $3.68 per million BTUs. Gold settled down 0.2% today at $1,588.40 an ounce, largely due to the stronger dollar.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 5 points to 14,455.28 (0.04%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 3 points (0.09%) to 3,245.12, and the S&P 500 rose 0.13% or about 2 points to 1,554.52.

There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) reiterated as ‘buy’ with a price target of $100 at BofA/Merrill Lynch; Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL) raised to ‘buy’ at Canaccord Genuity; Walgreen Co. (NYSE: WAG) raised to ‘buy’ at UBS; Yum! Brands Inc. (NYSE: YUM) maintained as ‘outperform’ and price target raised to $70 at Credit Suisse; and El Paso Pipeline Partners LP (NYSE: EPB) cut to ‘neutral’ and price target raised to $44 at Credit Suisse (more coverage of MLP ratings here).

Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in several price moves today, including these: Dole Food Company Inc. (NYSE: DOLE) is down 8.8% at $10.70; Majesco Entertainment Co. (NASDAQ: COOL) is down 16.3% at $0.60; Peregrine Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: PPHM) is down 8.2% at $1.45; and Express Inc. (NYSE: EXPR) is down 2.7% at $18.35 (more coverage here).

Before markets open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear from Bright Horizons Family Solutions Inc. (NYSE: BFAM), Men’s Wearhouse Inc. (NYSE: MW), Vera Bradley Inc. (NASDAQ: VRA), Comstock Mining Inc. (NYSEMKT: LODE), and ReneSola Ltd. (NYSE: SOL).

Some standouts among heavily traded stocks today include:

Spectrum Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: SPPI) is down 37.6% at $7.76 after posting a new 52-week low of $7.73 earlier today. The drugmaker lowered full-year guidance today by 40%, and the shorts had a field day.

Valero Energy Corp. (NYSE: VLO) is down 4.4% at $43.53. The oil refiner received an analyst downgrade today linked to the rising cost of renewable fuel credits.

eBay Inc. (NASDAQ: EBAY) is down 4.4% at $50.65. The online auction site’s PayPal subsidiary purchased a mobile app developer today to help it fight against other online payment players.

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

  • 8:30 a.m. – New claims for unemployment benefits
  • 8:30 a.m. – Producer price index
  • 8:30 a.m. – Current account
  • 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly natural gas storage report
  • 1:00 p.m. – 30-year bond auction
  • 4:30 p.m. – Fed balance sheet and money supply

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