24/7 Wall St. Closing Bell — September 24, 2012: Markets Can't Overcome Tech Weakness (AKS, VECO, ORCL, DRI, VLO, LEN, PSDV, RHT, FDS, NEOG, MTN, PPHM, QCOR, LMLP, GOOG, AAPL, FB)

The three major U.S. stock indexes opened lower this morning following weak economic data from Germany (more coverage here). The weekend meetings between Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande highlighted the gulf between the two countries' approach to dealing with the eurozone debt crisis. In Asia, markets skidded lower as the dispute between China and Japan over an island in the East China Sea continues to weigh on Asian markets. A Chinese research firm said that the country's economy would grow by just 7.8% this year, climbing to above 8% next year. In the U.S., tech stocks led today's slide.

The U.S. dollar index rose today, now up 0.31% at 79.574. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.8% at 663.96, with commodities prices mostly higher lower on the stronger dollar. WTI crude oil closed down 1% today, at $91.93 a barrel. Brent crude trades down 1.5% at $109.74 a barrel. Natural gas is down 1.4% today to $2.846 per thousand cubic feet. Gold closed at $1,764.60 an ounce, down 0.8%.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down more than 19 points to 13,559.85 (-0.14%), the NASDAQ fell more than 19 points (-0.60%) to 3,160.78, and the S&P 500 fell -0.22% or more than 3 points to 1,456.89.

There were several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including AK Steel Holding Corp. (NYSE: AKS) cut to 'sell' at Citigroup; Veeco Instruments Inc. (NASDAQ: VECO) cut to 'sell' at Goldman Sachs; Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL) reiterated as 'buy' with a price target of $39 at Argus; Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE: DRI) cut to 'neutral' at JPMorgan; and Valero Energy Corp. (NYSE: VLO) cut to 'hold' at Argus.

Earnings reports since markets closed last Friday were very scarce. The only earnings report of note was Lennar Corp. (NYSE: LEN) which is down 1.4% at $36.98 after posting a new 52-week high of $40.00 earlier today (more coverage here).

Before markets open tomorrow we are scheduled to hear from pSivida Corp. (NASDAQ: PSDV), Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT), FactSet Research Systems Inc. (NYSE: FDS), Neogen Corp. (NASDAQ: NEOG), and Vail Resorts Inc. (NYSE: MTN).

Some standouts from today include the following stocks:

Peregrine Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: PPHM) is down 78.3% at $1.17. The drugmaker disclosed some with research data discrepancies this morning. More coverage here.

Questcor Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOR) is down 35% at $19.57 after posting a new low of $18.81 earlier today. The drug company said today that the U.S. government has begun an investigation into Questcor's promotional practices. More coverage here.

LML Payment Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: LMLP) is up 81.3% at $3.39. The Canadian electronic payment systems company is being acquired by Digital River Inc. (NASDAQ: DRIV) for $97.3 million, or $3.45 per share, a premium of 85% over the company's Friday closing price.

Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) is up 1.9% at $748.11. The online search giant posted a new all-time high today of $749.99, while both Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) saw their share prices fall. More coverage here.

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

  • 9:00 a.m. – S&P Case-Shiller housing price index

  • 10:00 a.m. – Conference Board's consumer confidence index

  • 10:00 a.m. – FHFA house price index

  • 10:00 a.m. – Richmond Fed manufacturing survey

  • 10:00 a.m. – State Street investor confidence index

  • 11:30 a.m. – 4-week bill auction

  • 1:00 p.m. – 2-year note auction

Paul Ausick

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, HI/LOW, Market Close Tagged: AAPL, AKS, DRI, FB, FDS, GOOG, LEN, LMLP, MTN, NEOG, ORCL, PPHM, PSDV, QCOR, RHT, VECO, VLO