U.S. equity markets opened higher this morning, getting off to a good start in an effort to recover some of the ground lost yesterday. A jump in U.S. new home construction to a 5-year high (more coverage here) and a drop in U.S. consumer prices (more coverage here) more than outweighed large declines in consumer sentiment in Europe (more coverage here). There was no economic data of note from Asia.
The U.S. dollar index is trading down 0.81% today, now at 81.752. The GSCI commodity index is down 2.3% at 608.83 (more commodities coverage here). WTI crude oil closed up 0.1% today, at $88.81 a barrel. Brent crude trades down 1% at $99.63 a barrel, its first dip below $100 a barrel since last July. Natural gas is up 0.9% today at about $4.16 per million BTUs. Gold settled up 1.9% today at $1,387.40 an ounce, following the yesterday’s drop of 9.3%.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 157 points to 14,756.70 (1.08%), the NASDAQ rose more than 48 points (1.50%) to 3,264.63, and the S&P 500 rose 1.43% or more than 22 points to 1,574.56.
There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST) started as ‘buy’ at UBS; Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S) raised to ‘overweight’ at J.P. Morgan and reiterated as ‘buy’ with a price target of $8 at Argus; First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) reiterated as ‘hold’ at Argus; Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) raised to ‘overweight’ at Morgan Stanley; and American Electric Power Co. (NYSE: AEP) cut to ‘market perform’ at Wells Fargo.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in some price moves today, including these as of the last half hour of trading: Pep Boys – Manny, Moe & Jack (NYSE: PBY) is down 6.2% at $10.55; BlackRock Inc. (NYSE: BLK) is up 0.9% at $256.20; Comerica Inc. (NYSE: CMA) is up 2% at $34.83; Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) is down 1.8% at $143.88 (more coverage here); Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) is up 2.2% at $83.47 after posting a new 52-week high of $83.54 earlier today (more coverage here); and The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) is up 5.9% at $42.46 after posting a new 52-week high of $42.47 earlier today (more coverage here).
Some standouts among heavily traded stocks today include:
J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) is up 6.1% at $15.27. The struggling retailer saw its shares rise on reports that it was looking at borrowing against its substantial real estate holdings and even other ways to raise cash based on the dirt underneath the stores.
Barrick Gold Corp. (NYSE: ABX) is down 5.3% at $18.74 after posting a second consecutive 52-week low of $18.66 earlier today. The gold mining company continues to be weighed down by the decline in gold prices. Other gold miners continue to suffer as well.
Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) is up 3.8% at $46.60. The big bank’s positive earnings results yesterday, especially the improvement in its credit losses, gained more favor today.
Stay tuned for Wednesday. Fed Governor Jeremy Stein, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren 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
- 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly petroleum status report
- 2:00 p.m. – Federal Reserve Beige Book