24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell -- Thursday: Markets Open Higher, S&P Posts Another All-time High

U.S. equity markets opened higher this morning, buoyed by a smaller-than-expected total of new claims for unemployment benefits in the U.S. (more coverage here). The U.S. trade deficit also fell while unit labor costs rose by less than analysts expected and productivity rose by less than expected. In Europe, the European Central Bank cut its key interest rate by 0.25% to 0.50% (more coverage here) and eurozone PMI rose slightly (more coverage here). In Asia, China’s final manufacturing PMI reading declined where a small increase was expected. Shares traded higher all day, with the S&P 500 index posting a new all-time high earlier in the day and closing within a few ticks of 1,600.

The U.S. dollar index is trading up 0.91% today, now at 82.226. The GSCI commodity index is down 2.1% at 611.06. WTI crude oil closed up 3.2%, at $93.99 a barrel. Brent crude trades up 2.9% at $102.83 a barrel. Natural gas is down 6.4% today at about $4.05 per million BTUs on a larger-than-expected build in U.S. inventories (more coverage here). Gold settled up 1.5% today at $1,467.60 an ounce.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 131 points to 14,831.58 (0.89%), the NASDAQ rose about 41 points (1.26%) to 3,340.62, and the S&P 500 rose 0.94% or nearly 15 points to 1,597.59.

There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Yelp Inc. (NYSE: YELP) raised to ‘market perform’ at Northland Securities; Invesco Ltd. (NYSE: IVZ) raised to ‘buy’ at Sterne Agee; Arch Coal Inc. (NYSE: ACI) raised to ‘equal weight’ at Morgan Stanley; Genco Shipping & Trading Ltd. (NYSE: GNK) cut to ‘underperform’ at Credit Suisse; and SolarCity Corp. (NASDAQ: SCTY) cut to ‘neutral’ at Goldman Sachs.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in some price moves today, including these as of the last half hour of trading: Archer Daniels Midland Co. (NYSE: ADM) is down fractionally at $33.58; Avis Budget Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CAR) is up 1.4% at $28.85; CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS) is up 2.6% at $47.62 after posting a new 52-week high of $48.30 earlier today; Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) is up 5.6% at $28.97 (more coverage here); JDS Uniphase Corp. (NASDAQ: JDSU) is up 4% at $13.02; Las Vegas Sands Corp. (NYSE: LVS) is up 1.5% at $57.09 after posting a new 52-week high of $57.88 earlier today (more coverage here); Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ: STX) is up 7.5% at $39.71 after posting a new 52-week high of $39.92 earlier today; Tesoro Corp. (NYSE: TSO) is up 5.8% at $53.83; Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) is up 5.7% at $175.44 after posting a new 52-week high of $179.66 earlier today; Alpha Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE: ANR) is down 4.2% at $7.16 (more coverage here); Cigna Corp. (NYSE: CI) is up 4.2% at $68.10 after posting a new 52-week high of $68.87 earlier today; Goldcorp Inc. (NYSE: GG) is down 0.6% at $28.67(more coverage here); and Monster Worldwide Inc. (NYSE: MWW) is up 8.3% at $4.64.

Before markets open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear earnings reports from American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG), Gilead Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD), Kraft Foods Group Inc. (NASDAQ: KRFT), LinkedIn Corp. (NYSE: LNKD), SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWR), Automatic Data Processing Inc. (NYSE: ADT), and Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE: DUK).

Some standouts among heavily traded stocks today include:

MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM) is up 6.7% at $14.73 after posting a new 52-week high of $14.90 earlier today. The hotel and casino operator posted a surprise profit on the strength of its Macau business.

Halcon Resources Corp. (NYSE: HK) is down 9% at $5.72. The independent energy company reported poor earnings this morning.

ING U.S. Inc. (NYSE: VOYA) is up 5.7% at $20.62. The U.S. insurance arm of Dutch giant ING held its IPO today. More coverage here.

Stay tuned for Friday. Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo and Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker are giving speeches. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 8:30 a.m. – Non-farm payrolls and employment situation
  • 10:00 a.m. – Factory orders
  • 10:00 a.m. – ISM non-manufacturing index

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