24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell -- Thursday: Markets Open Higher, Maintain Positive Trend Today

U.S. equity markets opened higher this morning following a report on U.S. unemployment that was better than analysts expected (more coverage here). There were literally hundreds of U.S. companies reporting earnings between last night’s close and today’s open, and equities were pushing the market higher most of the day as well. In Europe, the U.K. reported positive GDP growth in the first quarter (more coverage here), while Spain’s unemployment rate rose to 27.16% (more coverage here). In Asia, South Korea reported higher-than-expected GDP growth, but there was little other data. Before U.S. markets open tomorrow morning, first quarter GDP will be announced (more coverage here). The consensus estimate calls for growth of 3.1% compared with the fourth quarter of 2012.

The U.S. dollar index is trading down 0.38% today, now at 82.733. The GSCI commodity index is up 1.2% at 614.65. WTI crude oil closed up 2.4%, at $93.64 a barrel. Brent crude trades up 1.6% at $103.40 a barrel. Natural gas is up fractionally today at about $4.17 per million BTUs after an in-line storage report (more coverage here). Gold settled up 2.7% today at $1,462.00 an ounce, chalking up its largest one-day gain so far this year.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 35 points to 14,711.82 (0.24%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 23 points (0.70%) to 3,292.48, and the S&P 500 rose 0.47% or more than 6 points to 1,585.17.

There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including F5 Networks Inc. (NASDAQ: FFIV) raised to ‘buy’ at Nomura; Federal-Mogul Corp. (NASDAQ: FDML) raised to ‘neutral’ at Goldman Sachs; Intuit Inc. (NASDAQ: INTU) cut to ‘neutral’ at Citigroup and J.P. Morgan; Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) raised to ‘buy’ at Hilliard Lyons; and McGraw Hill Companies Inc. (NYSE: MHP) cut to ‘hold’ at Jefferies.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in some price moves today, including these as of the last half hour of trading: Angie’s List Inc. (NASDAQ: ANGI) is up 30.1% at $26.16 after posting a new 52-week high of $26.72 earlier today; Bally Technologies Inc. (NYSE: BYI) is up 11.4% at $54.67 after posting a new 52-week high of $54.74 earlier today; Fusion-io Inc. (NYSE: FIO) is up 18.4% at $19.70; O’Reilly Automotive Inc. (NASDAQ: ORLY) is up 4.7% at $105.86 after posting a new 52-week high of $108.98 earlier today; Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOM) is down 5.4% at $62.42 (more coverage here); Vale SA (NYSE: VALE) is up 1.8% at $17.05; Western Digital Corp. (NASDAQ: WDC) is down 0.1% at $52.86 after posting a new 52-week high of $57.95 earlier today; 3M Co. (NYSE: MMM) is down 2.7% at $105.00; Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO) is up 1.1% at $35.92; Bunge Ltd. (NYSE: BG) is up 6.9% at $72.99; Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) is down 1.3% at $88.25 (more coverage here); Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. (NYSE: POT) is up 3.1% at $40.85 (more coverage here); Proto Labs Inc. (NASDAQ: PRLB) is down 1.3% at $48.10 (more 3D printing coverage here); and Safeway Inc. (NYSE: SWY) is down 14.1% at $24.28 (more coverage here).

Before markets open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear earnings reports from Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), Baidu Inc. (NASDAQ: BIDU), Clearwire Corp. (NASDAQ: CLWR), Coinstar Inc. (NASDAQ: CSTR), HealthSouth Corp. (NYSE: HLS), Olin Corp. (NYSE: OLN), Range Resources Corp. (NYSE: RRC), Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX), Wynn Resorts, Ltd. (NASDAQ: WYNN), Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Burger King Worldwide Inc. (NYSE: BKW), Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX), National Oilwell Varco Inc. (NYSE: NOV), and VF Corp. (NYSE: VFC).

Some standouts among heavily traded stocks today include:

MPG Office Trust Inc. (NYSE: MPG) is up 20.6% at $3.14. The office and real-estate development REIT is being acquired by Brookfield Office Properties Inc. (NYSE: BPO) for $3.15 a share..

Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE: CLF) is up 16.1% at $21.15. The steelmaker and iron ore miner posted better-than-expected results this morning.

Zynga Inc. (NASDAQ: ZNGA) is down 7.1% at $3.11. The social games company posted poor results last night and expectations are not encouraging. More coverage here.

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

  • 8:30 a.m. – GDP
  • 9:55 a.m. – University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters consumer sentiment index

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