24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell -- March 27, 2013: Markets Close Mixed After Low Start (VMW, GOOG, AOL, GIS, ORCL, MFRM, SAI, XONE, PAYX, SNX, TXI, END, FINL, GME, MOS, BBRY, WGO, CLF, FB, GILD)

U.S. equity markets opened lower this morning following a stack of poor reports on the Italian economy. New industrial orders were down, industrial sales were down, and retail sales were down. To top it off, the newly elected prime minister has failed to form a new coalition government. There was no data from Asia today, but markets there were higher following yesterday’s gains in the U.S. Data on U.S. pending home sales was not as weak as it appeared (more coverage here) and expectations for an upwardly revised U.S. GDP growth figure due out tomorrow (more coverage here).

The U.S. dollar index rose 0.43% today, now at 83.231. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.9% at 654.54, with commodities prices mostly higher today on a stronger dollar. WTI crude oil closed up 0.1% today, at $96.38 a barrel, after a sharp rise in inventories (more coverage here). Brent crude trades up 0.3% at $109.87 a barrel. Natural gas is up 1.8% today at about $4.07 per million BTUs. Gold settled up 0.7% today at $1,606.20 an ounce.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down more than 33 points to 14,526.16 (-0.23%), the NASDAQ rose about 4 points (0.12%) to 3,256.52, and the S&P 500 fell 0.06% or about 1 point to 1,562.86.

There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) raised to ‘strong buy’ although price target lowered to $115 at ISI; Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) reiterated as ‘outperform’ and target price raised to $982 at Credit Suisse; AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL) raised to ‘overweight’ with a price target of $44 at Barclays; General Mills Inc. (NYSE: GIS) raised to ‘buy’ with a price target of $57 at Argus; and Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL) reiterated as ‘buy’ with a target price of $38 at BofA/Merrill Lynch.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in several price moves today, including these: Mattress Firm Holding Corp. (NASDAQ: MFRM) is up 12.6% at $34.93 and SAIC Inc. (NYSE: SAI) is up 3.9% at $13.33 after posting a new 52-week high of $13.65 earlier today.

Before markets open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear from The ExOne Co. (NASDAQ: XONE) (more coverage here), Paychex Inc. (NASDAQ: PAYX), Synnex Corp. (NYSE: SNX), Texas Industries Inc. (NYSE: TXI), Endeavor Mining Corp. (NYSE: END), Finish Line Inc. (NASDAQ: FINL), GameStop Corp. (NYSE: GME), Mosaic Co. (NYSE: MOS), BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY), and Winnebago Industries Inc. (NYSE: WGO).

Some standouts among heavily traded stocks today include:

Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE: CLF) is down 14.6% at $18.30 after posting a new 52-week low of $17.95 earlier today. The iron ore and coal miner took a number of analysts’ downgrades today.

Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) is up 3.5% at $26.09. The social media company is working on a new advertising plan and investors are looking for a boost to revenues.

Gilead Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD) is up 4.4% at $47.76 after posting a new 52-week high of $47.83 earlier today. The drugmaker got a boost from an approval to proceed with testing of its hepatitis-C drug.

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

  • 8:30 a.m. – GDP
  • 8:30 a.m. – New claims for unemployment benefits
  • 8:30 a.m. – Corporate profits
  • 9:45 a.m. – Chicago PMI
  • 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly natural gas storage report
  • 11:00 a.m. – Kansas City Fed manufacturing index
  • 11:30 a.m. – 7-year note auction
  • 4:30 p.m. – Fed balance sheet and money supply

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