Closing Bell for Thursday on Wall Street: Market Sell-off Hits High Gear Today

Bull and Bear figures
Bull and Bear figures

U.S. equity markets opened lower this morning adding to yesterday's carnage following the FOMC announcement yesterday. The widespread belief that sometime this year the Fed will start reducing its $85 billion in monthly asset purchases weighed on markets in Asia and Europe as well. The slide in Asia was exacerbated by an unexpected dip in China's PMI. The country's central bank tightened lending policy is also weighing on the economy. In Europe, eurozone manufacturing and services PMI both rose, but today's data was definitely a mixed bag. Equities, bonds, gold, oil — nothing was safe today except cash.

The U.S. dollar index is trading up 0.57% today, now at 81.4720. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.5% at 635.84. WTI crude oil closed down 2.9% today, at $95.40 a barrel. Brent crude trades down 3.9% at $101.97 a barrel. Natural gas is down 2.1% today at about $3.88 per million BTUs following a larger than expected build in inventories. Gold settled down about 6.3% today at $1,286.20, it's lowest settlement since September 2010.

The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down about 354 points to 14,758.24 (-2.34%), the NASDAQ fell more than 78 points (-2.28%) to 3,364.63, and the S&P 500 fell -2.50% or nearly 41 points to 1,588.20.

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

  • Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) raised to 'outperform' at Raymond James;

  • Newmont Mining Corp. (NYSE: NEM) cut to 'neutral' at Cowen & Co.;

  • The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) cut to 'neutral' at BMO Capital Markets;

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) raised to 'outperform' at Wells Fargo; and

  • Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S) cut to 'hold' at Argus.

Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in some price moves today, including these as of the last half hour of trading:

  • Micron Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MU) is down 3.8% at $13.45, mostly on market weakness;

  • Jabil Circuit Inc. (NYSE: JBL) is up 1.4% at $20.10;

  • Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT) is down 0.9% at $45.81;

  • Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) is down 6.4% at $32.88 after a solid outlook; and

  • Pier 1 Imports Inc. (NYSE: PIR) is down 3.8% at $23.09.

Before markets open tomorrow morning, we are scheduled to get earnings reports from Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL), Carmax Inc. (NYSE: KMX), and Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE: DRI).

Some standouts among heavily traded stocks today include:

Clearwire Corp. (NASDAQ: CLWR) is up 7.1% at $5.04, a new 52-week high. The wireless carrier agreed to a sweetened offer today from Sprint.

Kinross Gold Corp. (NYSE: KGC) is down 9.3% at $5.00 after posting a new 52-week low of $4.95 earlier today. The gold miner is the hardest hit among gold stocks on today's sell-off.

Rite Aid Corp. (NYSE: RAD) is down 9.5%% at $2.81. The drugstore operator reported inline earnings last night, but revenues were light and today's market sell-off picked on some weak stocks, like Rite Aid.

There are no data releases or other events scheduled for Friday.

Filed under: Investing Tagged: CLWR, DIS, DRI, HPQ, JBL, KGC, KMX, KR, MU, NEM, ORCL, PIR, RAD, RHT, S, WMT