Closing Bell for Thursday on Wall Street: Markets Open Mixed, Muddle to Positive Close

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Bull and Bear figuresJuly 18, 2013: U.S. equity markets opened higher this morning after the report on new jobless claims in the U.S. came in better than expected. In Europe, Greece agreed to fire another 25,000 public employees and the eurozone current account surplus came in higher than expected. In Asia, home prices jumped again in China, and reports in the Chinese press say the government is considering a credit increase for exporters in an effort to get the country’s trade moving again. The Philadelphia Fed’s survey rose more than expected, helping boost equities to intra-day highs before noon.

The U.S. dollar index is trading up 0.15% today, now at 82.8330. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.1% at 646.65. WTI crude oil closed up 1.5% today, at $108.04 a barrel, its highest closing level in more than a year. Brent crude trades up 0.1% at $108.72 a barrel, bringing the crude spread to below $1 a barrel today. Natural gas is up 5.2% today at about $3.82 per million BTUs after the weekly storage increase came in smaller than expected. Gold for August delivery settled up 0.5% today at $1,284.20 an ounce.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up about 78 points to 15,548.54 (0.50%), the NASDAQ rose about 1 point (0.04%) to 3,611.28, and the S&P 500 rose 0.50% or more than 8 points to 1,689.37.

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

  • Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) reiterated as ‘buy’ and price target raised to $104 at Argus;
  • ASML Holding NV (NASDAQ: ASML) cut to ‘hold’ at Piper Jaffray;
  • Northern Trust Corp. (NASDAQ: NTRS) cut to ‘underweight’ at J.P. Morgan;
  • Under Armour Inc. (NYSE: UA) started as ‘outperform’ at Wedbush; and
  • Citrix Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CTXS) cut to ‘market perform’ at Raymond James.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in some prices move today:

Before markets open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear earnings results from Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG), Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NYSE: AMD), Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE: CMG), Intuitive Surgical Inc. (NASDAQ: ISRG), Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT), Baker Hughes Inc. (NYSE: BHI), General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE), Honeywell International Inc. (NYSE: HON), and Schlumberger NV (NYSE: SLB).

Some standouts among heavily traded stocks today include:

Ebay Inc. (NASDAQ: EBAY) is down 6.9% at $53.43. The Internet auction company posted weak earnings and gave weaker guidance after markets closed last night.

Supervalu Inc. (NYSE: SVU) is up 17.1% at $7.94 after posting a new 52-week high of $8.26 earlier today. The grocery store operator posted solid earnings and put the squeeze on short sellers who were holding about 26% of the company’s float.

JAKKS Pacific Inc. (NASDAQ: JAKK) is down 38% at $7.10 after posting a new 52-week low of $7.01 earlier today. The toys and consumer products suspended its dividend, cut its guidance, and said it plans to restructure.

There are no data releases scheduled for Friday.