24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell -- Wednesday: Markets Cannot Shake-off Low Open and Sink to Close

U.S. equity markets opened lower this morning following a weaker-than-expected employment report from ADP and concern that Friday’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics will follow the ADP lead (more coverage here). In other U.S. data out today, the April ISM manufacturing index ready came in lower than expected and the March report on construction spending was substantially weaker than forecast (more coverage here). In Asia, China’s PMI was lower than expected and raised worries that the Asian growth is slowing down (more coverage here). Markets in China and Hong Kong were closed today for the May Day holiday. The FOMC announcement in mid-afternoon offered a slightly different view on how the Fed’s asset buying may proceed (more coverage here).

The U.S. dollar index is trading down 0.28% today, now at 81.521. The GSCI commodity index is down 0.9% at 624.44. WTI crude oil closed down 2.6%, at $91.03 a barrel, following a massive increase in commercial inventories (more coverage here). Brent crude trades down 2.4% at $99.89 a barrel, as the spread between WTI and Brent now falls below $10 a barrel (more coverage here). Natural gas is down 0.4% today at about $4.32 per million BTUs. Gold settled down 1.8% today at $1,446.20 an ounce.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down about 139 points to 14,700.95 (-0.94%), the NASDAQ about 30 points (-0.89%) to 3,299.13, and the S&P 500 fell -0.93% or nearly 15 points to 1,582.70.

There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Biogen Idec Inc. (NASDAQ: BIIB) removed from “Conviction Buy” list and cut to ‘neutral’ at Goldman Sachs; Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (NYSE: FCX) raised to ‘buy’ at Nomura; Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) raised to ‘buy’ at Nomura; Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ: AMGN) added to “Conviction Buy” list at Goldman Sachs; and Oil States International Inc. (NYSE: OIS) cut to ‘underperform’ at BMO Capital Markets and cut to ‘market perform’ at Raymond James.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in some price moves today, including these as of the last half hour of trading: Affymetrix Inc. (NASDAQ: AFFX) is down 8% at $3.35; Bankrate Inc. (NYSE: RATE) is up 14.7% at $15.46; Leap Wireless International Inc. (NASDAQ: LEAP) is down 3.2% at $5.54; Spectrum Brands Holdings Inc. (NYSE: SPB) is down 4.6% at $53.44; Trulia Inc. (NYSE: TRLA) is up 13.1% at $32.86; Vanguard Health Systems Inc. (NYSE: VHS) is down 8.3% at $13.41; ADT Corp. (NYSE: ADT) is down 6.9% at $40.65; Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK) is down 2.1% at $19.14 (more coverage here); Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA) is up 1.2% at $41.81 (more coverage here); Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) is up 4.4% at $77.38; James River Coal Co. (NASDAQ: JRCC) is up 32.8% at $2.19; Mastercard Inc. (NYSE: MA) is down 2.3% at $540.47; Phillips 66 (NYSE: PSX) is down 2.1% at $59.68 (more coverage here); and Viacom Corp. (NASDAQ: VIAB) is up 3.2% at $66.01 after posting a new 52-week high of $69.00 earlier today.

Before markets open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear earnings reports from Archer Daniels Midland Co. (NYSE: ADM), Avis Budget Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CAR), CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS), Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB), JDS Uniphase Corp. (NASDAQ: JDSU), Las Vegas Sands Corp. (NYSE: LVS), Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ: STX), Tesoro Corp. (NYSE: TSO), Visa Inc. (NYSE: V), Alpha Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE: ANR), Cigna Corp. (NYSE: CI), Goldcorp Inc. (NYSE: GG), and Monster Worldwide Inc. (NYSE: MWW).

Some standouts among heavily traded stocks today include:

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NYSE: AMD) is up 13.1% at $3.19. The chipmaker had no big news today, although it did introduce two new microprocessors and made some pricing changes that indicate that the company’s pricing may have stabilized.

Sirius XM Radio Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) is up 3.4% at $3.36 after posting a new 52-week (and 5-year) high of $3.39 earlier today. The satellite radio company posted a second consecutive high today, continuing to feast off yesterday’s earnings report.

Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK) is down 2.8% at $45.67. The drug maker slid on its lackluster earnings results and took a slice out of its sales and earnings targets for the rest of the year.

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

  • 7:30 a.m. – Challenger job-cut report
  • 8:30 a.m. – International trade
  • 8:30 a.m. – New claims for unemployment benefits
  • 8:30 a.m. – Productivity and costs
  • 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly natural gas storage report
  • 4:30 p.m. – Fed balance sheet and money supply

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