24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell -- March 26, 2013: Markets Push Equities Higher Today (BTU, AAPL, FIO, CAT, EA, FMCN, SONC, PRTS, MFRM, SAI, ZIOP, HPQ, DELL, AMX)

U.S. equity markets opened higher this morning and a spate of decent news on U.S. housing kept markets in the green all day. The S&P 500 index finished the day’s session within sight of it’s all-time high close of 1,565.15. In the U.S., the S&P Case-Shiller house price index sharply in January, at a rate last seen before the housing crash in 2008 (more coverage here). Orders for durable goods rose (more coverage here), but consumer confidence took a dive (more coverage here and here). In France, consumer confidence slipped, and the resolution of the Cyprus banking crisis appears to have calmed some fears. There was no data out of Asia either, but China’s official newspaper has taken a swipe at another major U.S. company (more coverage here).

The U.S. dollar index rose 0.08% today, now at 82.894. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.4% at 649.03, with commodities prices mostly higher today. WTI crude oil closed up 1.6% today, at $96.34 a barrel, the highest close in more than a month. Brent crude trades up 1.1% at $109.33 a barrel. Natural gas is up 2.9% today at about $3.98 per million BTUs. Gold settled down 0.6% today at $1,595.70 an ounce.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up nearly 112 points to 14,559.65 (0.77%), the NASDAQ rose more than 17 points (0.53%) to 3,252.48, and the S&P 500 rose 0.78% or about 12 points to 1,563.77.

There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Peabody Energy Corp. (NYSE: BTU) raised to ‘outperform’ at Raymond James; Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) maintained as ‘outperform’ but price target cut to $550 at Oppenheimer; Fusion-io Inc. (NYSE: FIO) started as ‘perform’ at Oppenheimer; Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) maintained as ‘positive’ but price target cut to $109 at Susquehanna; and Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA) raised to ‘overweight’ at Piper Jaffray.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in several price moves today, including these: Focus Media Holding Ltd. (NASDAQ: FMCN) is up 0.7% at $26.86; Sonic Corp. (NASDAQ: SONC) is up 9.3% at $12.82 after posting a new 52-week high of $12.93 earlier today; and U.S. Auto Parts Network Inc. (NASDAQ: PRTS) is down 9.4% at $1.06 after posting a new 52-week low of $1.01 earlier today.

Before markets open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear from Mattress Firm Holding Corp. (NASDAQ: MFRM) and SAIC Inc. (NYSE: SAI).

Short interest will be reported after markets close today. We’ll have our round-up of selected sectors tomorrow morning.

Some standouts among heavily traded stocks today include:

ZIOPHARM Oncology Inc. (NASDAQ: ZIOP) is down 62.4% at $1.93. The drugmaker has cancelled its late-stage trial for a cancer drug.

Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) is up 2.3% at $23.64. The high-tech firm got an upgrade today and is likely getting some benefit from the uncertainty surrounding a possible buyout of competitor Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL).

America Movil S.A.B. de C.V. (NYSE: AMX) is up 2% at $21.15. The mobile phone carrier has obtained the Latin American broadcast rights the 2014 Winter Olympic Games and the 2016 Summer Games.

Stay tuned for Wednesday. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, Cleveland Fed President Sandra Pianalto, and Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota 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
  • 10:00 a.m. – Pending home sales
  • 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report
  • 1:00 p.m. – 5-year note auction
  • 3:00 p.m. – Farm Prices

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