Closing Bell for Wednesday on Wall Street: Markets Blunted on Fed Comments, Minutes

U.S. equity markets opened barely higher this morning following a report that mortgage loan applications had fallen by 9.8% from the previous week, on top of a 7% decline for the prior period. In Asia, the Bank of Japan said it would maintain its key interest rate at 0.10% and would increase the country’s monetary base. The eurozone reported a current account surplus of €25.9 billion, far greater than the expected surplus of €15 billion. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before a joint Congressional committee this morning, and that, coupled with a mid-afternoon release of the FOMC minutes sent stocks solidly lower for the last two hours of today’s session.

The U.S. dollar index is trading up 0.55% today, now at 84.3240. The GSCI commodity index is down 0.6% at 631.02. WTI crude oil closed down 2%, at $94.28 a barrel on the first day of trading the July contract and following another large rise in U.S. gasoline inventories. Brent crude trades down 1.4% at $102.51 a barrel. Natural gas is down 0.1% today at about $4.19 per million BTUs. Gold settled down 0.6% today at $1,370.10.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down about 80 points to 15,307.56 (-0.52%), the NASDAQ fell nearly 39 points (-1.11%) to 3,463.30, and the S&P 500 fell -0.83% or nearly 14 points to 1,655.35.

There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including:

  • SodaStream International Ltd (NASDAQ: SODA) cut to ‘neutral’ at J.P. Morgan;
  • Carnival Corp. (NYSE: CCL) cut to ‘neutral’ at HSBC;
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE: BMY) raised to ‘buy’ at Citigroup;
  • Monster Beverage Corp. (NASDAQ: MNST) started as ‘outperform’ at BMO Capital Markets; and
  • Popular Inc. (NASDAQ: BPOP) started as ‘outperform’ at Wells Fargo.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night have resulted in some price changes for reporting companies as of the last half hour of trading today:

  • Intuit Inc. (NASDAQ: INTU) is up 0.4% at $58.14;
  • NetApp Inc. (NASDAQ: NTAP) is up 1.2% at $37.05;
  • American Eagle Outfitters Inc. (NYSE: AEO) is up 1% at $20.51;
  • Lowe’s Companies Inc. (NYSE: LOW) is up 0.6% at $42.71 after posting a new 52-week high of $43.84 earlier today;
  • Staples Inc. (NASDAQ: SPLS) is up 2% at $15.05 after posting a new 52-week high of $15.50 earlier today;;
  • Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) is down 4.6% at $67.96; and
  • Toll Brothers Inc. (NYSE: TOL) is up 2.8% at $37.00 after posting a new 52-week high of $39.25 earlier today.

Before markets open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear earnings from DryShips Inc. (NASDAQ: DRYS), Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), L Brands Inc. (NYSE: LTD), PetSmart Inc. (NASDAQ: PETM), SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. (NYSE: SEAS), Workday Inc. (NYSE: WDAY), Dollar Tree Inc. (NASDAQ: DLTR), GameStop Corp. (NYSE: GME), Ralph Lauren Corp. (NYSE: RL), and Stein Mart Inc. (NASDAQ: SMRT).

Some standouts among heavily traded stocks today include:

MannKind Corp. (NASDAQ: MNKD) is up 15.1% at $6.17 after posting a new 52-week high of $6.54 earlier today. The biopharmaceuticals firm was touted as a likely takeover target.

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) is up 1.7% at $29.26. The drugmaker said it plans to sell its majority holding in animal drug spinoff Zoetis Inc. (NYSE: ZTS).

Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. (NYSE: STP) is down 22.9% at $0.99. The solar energy PV maker has sold one of its projects to another company at a steep discount, and the local government of Wuxi province, where Suntech has its main manufacturing plant, has filed a $2.5 billion claim against the company on behalf of more than 500 creditors.

Stay tuned for Thursday. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard is giving a speech. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 8:30 a.m. – New claims for unemployment benefits
  • 8:58 a.m. – Flash PMI manufacturing index
  • 9:00 a.m. – FHFA house price index
  • 10:00 a.m. – New home sales
  • 10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly natural gas storage report
  • 11:00 a.m. – Kansas City Fed manufacturing index
  • 1:00 p.m. – Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) auction
  • 4:30 p.m. – Fed balance sheet and money supply

Sponsored: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor

Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.