Closing Bell for Friday on Wall Street: Stock Markets Open Higher Today, March Upward

Bull and Bear figures
Bull and Bear figures

U.S. equity markets opened higher this morning, taking advantage of buying opportunities after yesterday's slide in equities' prices. In the U.S., the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index and the Conference Board leading indicators both posted better-than-expected numbers and added more buying enthusiasm. In Europe, Spain recorded its first ever trade surplus, but there was no other economic news of note. In Asia, the Hong Kong exchange was closed for a holiday. In Japan, the Nikkei rose to a five-and-a-half-year high and the Shanghai exchange closed at a seven-week high after regulators eased some refinancing restrictions.

The U.S. dollar index is trading up 0.8% today, now at 84.2540. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.5% at 627.99. WTI crude oil closed up 0.9%, at $96.02 a barrel. Brent crude trades up 0.1% at $103.80 a barrel. Natural gas is up 3.1% today at about $4.06 per million BTUs. Gold settled down 1.6% today at $1,364.70, down nearly $72 for the week.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 121 points to 15,354.79 (0.80%), the NASDAQ rose nearly 34 points (0.97%) to 3,498.97, and the S&P 500 rose 0.95% or nearly 16 points to 1,666.12.

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

  • Deere & Co. (NYSE: DE) cut to 'sell' and price target slashed to $85 at Goldman Sachs;

  • The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) cut to 'neutral' at Atlantic Securities;

  • General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) raised to 'buy' at Credit Agricole;

  • United Continental Holdings plc (NYSE: UAL) raised to 'market perform' at Avondale Partners; and

  • Pandora Media Inc. (NYSE: P) cut to 'hold' at Maxim Group on a valuation call.

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 (more coverage is linked to the company's name):

  • Autodesk Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) is down 7% at $37.00;

  • Dell Inc. (NYSE: DELL) is down 0.2% at $13.40;

  • J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) is down 3.6% at $18.11;

  • Nordstrom Inc. (NYSE: JWN) is down 0.7% at $60.72; and

  • Stage Stores Inc. (NYSE: SSI) is down 7.6% at $24.11;

Before markets open Monday morning we are scheduled to hear earnings from Campbell Soup Co. (NYSE: CPB), JA Solar Holdings Co. Ltd. (NASDAQ: JASO), and Qihoo 360 Technology Co. Ltd. (NYSE: QIHU).

Some standouts among heavily traded stocks today include:

National Bank of Greece SA (NYSE: NBG) is up 19% at $2.38. The Greek bank's shares rise following a boost to the country's sovereign debt rating earlier this week.

Real Goods Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: RSOL) is up 98.4% at $3.48, after posting a new 52-week high of $3.63 earlier today. The solar PV installation company is finally getting some attention from investors, even though its first quarter earnings released last week were weak.

Tableau Software Inc. (NYSE: DATA) is up 62.5% at $50.38. The cloud-based, big data visualization maker held its IPO today.

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

  • 8:30 a.m. – Chicago Fed national activity index

  • 11:30 a.m. – 3- and 6-month bill auctions

Have a great weekend!

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, HI/LOW, Market Close Tagged: ADSK, CPB, DATA, DE, DELL, DIS, GM, JASO, JCP, JWN, NBG, P, QIHU, RSOL, SSI, UAL