U.S. equity markets opened higher this morning following markets in Europe and Asia, most of which were also pointed higher. In Asia, equities were mostly higher following yesterday's buoyant session in the U.S. The exception was Japan's Nikkei, which finished lower on a strengthening yen. In Europe, Italy sold 5- and 10-year debt at higher yields, but the country sold them all. In the U.S., mortgage loans dipped again (more coverage here) and durable goods orders came in below expectations (more coverage here). The report on pending home sales was sharply higher, though, (more coverage here) and helped push stocks higher in advance of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's second day of Congressional testimony.
The U.S. dollar index fell 0.33% today, now at 81.601. The GSCI commodity index is down 0.8% at 653.56, with commodities prices mostly higher today on the weaker dollar. WTI crude oil closed up 0.1% today, at $92.76 a barrel, following today's report on inventories (more coverage here). Brent crude trades down 0.7% at $111.95 a barrel. Natural gas is down 1% today at about $3.42 per million BTUs. Gold settled down 1.2% today at $1,595.70 an ounce.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up about 176 points to 14,076.22 (1.27%), the NASDAQ rose more than 32 points (1.04%) to 3,162.27, and the S&P 500 rose 1.28% or about 19 points to 1,516.032.
There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including LinkedIn Corp. (NYSE: LNKD) started as 'buy' with a $195 price target at Wunderlich (more coverage here); Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) raised to 'buy' and price target raised to $920 at BofA/Merrill Lynch; VeriSign Inc. (NASDAQ: VRSN) cut to 'neutral' at Credit Suisse; GrafTech International Ltd. (NYSE: GTI) cut to 'sell' at Goldman Sachs and cut to 'neutral' at J.P. Morgan; and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) raised to 'buy' with a $6 price target at Argus.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in several price moves today, including these: American Water Works Co. Inc. (NYSE: AWK) is up 0.1% at $39.46; Edison International (NYSE: EIX) is up 2.6% at $47.31; Priceline.com Inc. (NASDAQ: PCLN) is up 3.2% at $700.23; Range Resources Corp. (NYSE: RRC) is up 4% at $74.21 after posting a new 52-week high of $74.65 earlier today; Weatherford International Ltd. (NYSE: WFT) is up 0.6% at $12.01; Dollar Tree Inc. (NASDAQ: DLTR) is up 11.2% at $45.69 (more coverage here); Joy Global Inc. (NYSE: JOY) is up 6.2% at $63.68 (more coverage here); Stillwater Mining Co. (NYSE: SWC) is up 3.3% at $13.30 (more coverage here); and Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) is down 1.1% at $63.38 (more coverage here).
After markets close today and before they open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear from Career Education Corp. (NASDAQ: CECO), Continental Resources Inc. (NYSE: CLR), Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ: GRPN), GT Advanced Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: GTAT), J.C. Penney Co Inc. (NYSE: JCP), Limited Brands Inc. (NYSE: LTD), Monster Beverage Corp. (NASDAQ: MNST), Sturm Ruger & Co. Inc. (NYSE: RGR), Universal Display Corp. (NASDAQ: PANL), Barnes & Noble Inc. (NYSE: BKS), Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) (more coverage here), Kohl's Corp. (NYSE: KSS), and Sears Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: SHLD).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) is down 13.7% at $27.07. The solar panel maker reported weak results last night, and dragged the entire sector down today. More coverage here.
Zynga Inc. (NASDAQ: ZNGA) is up 4.8% at $3.52. The social game maker is getting yet another boost today following approval of legislation permitting online gambling in New Jersey. More coverage here.
Accretive Health Inc. (NYSE: AH) is down 22.1% at $9.44. The healthcare revenue management firm delayed its fourth quarter earnings report, saying it may change the way it recognizes contract revenues.
Stay tuned for Thursday. Fed Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher, and Chicago Fed President Charles Evans are giving speeches. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
8:30 a.m. – GDP
8:30 a.m. – New claims for unemployment benefits
9:45 a.m. – Chicago PMI
9:45 a.m. – Bloomberg consumer comfort index
10:30 a.m. – EIA weekly natural gas storage report
11:00 a.m. – Kansas City Fed manufacturing index
3:00 p.m. – Farm prices
4:30 p.m. – Fed balance sheet and money supply
Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, HI/LOW, Market Close Tagged: AH, AWK, BKS, CECO, CLR, CVC, DLTR, EIX, FSLR, GOOG, GRPN, GTAT, GTI, JCP, JOY, KSS, LNKD, LTD, MNST, NOK, PANL, PCLN, RGR, RRC, SHLD, SWC, TGT, VRSN, WFT, ZNGA