U.S. equity markets opened lower this morning, dragged down by weak economic data from Europe. Germany, France, Italy, and Greece all reported worse-than-expected GDP contraction for the fourth quarter of 2012, and the eurozone as whole experienced GDP contraction of 0.6% (more coverage here). In Asia, Japan reported a second consecutive quarter of GDP contraction, officially placing the country in recession (more coverage here). In the U.S., new jobless claims fell more than expected, but the data is suspect because two large states - Illinois and Connecticut - provided only estimates (more coverage here). Revisions will almost certainly affect next week's report. The good news is that continuing claims fell by 130,000. Indexes drifted around the break-even line most of the day before finishing mixed.
The U.S. dollar index rose 0.47% today, now at 80.462. The GSCI commodity index is up fractionally at 679.20, with commodities prices mixed again today. WTI crude oil closed up 0.3% today, at $97.31. Brent crude trades up 0.1% at $117.94 a barrel. Natural gas is down 4.1% today at about $3.17 per million BTUs following a smaller-than-expected draw on inventories (more coverage here). Gold settled down 0.6% today at $1,635.50 an ounce, its lowest settlement since August 20th.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA down about 9 points to13,974.31 (-0.06%), the NASDAQ rose about 2 points (0.06%) to 3,198.67, and the S&P 500 rose 0.07% or about 1 point to 1,521.41.
There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including Colgate-Palmolive Co. (NYSE: CL) started as 'sell' at Canaccord Genuity; Nvidia Corp. (NASDAQ: NVDA) cut to 'hold' at Needham; Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT) cut to 'neutral' at Cowen; Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL) cut to 'market perform' at Raymond James; and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) raised to 'outperform' at Raymond James.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night resulted in several price moves today, including these: Applied Materials Inc. (NASDAQ: AMAT) is up 1.1% at $13.93 after posting a new 52-week high of $13.99 earlier today (more coverage here); Avis Budget Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CAR) is up 5.8% at $24.39 after posting a new 52-week high of $24.90 earlier today; Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) is down 0.9% at $20.96 (more coverage here); Cloud Peak Energy Inc. (NYSE: CLD) is down 1.4% at $16.72; Intrepid Potash Inc. (NYSE: IPI) is down 6% at $22.10; Kinross Gold Corp. (NYSE: KGC) is up 6.2% at $8.38; Metlife Inc. (NYSE: MET) is down 1.8% at $36.84 (more coverage here); NetApp Inc. (NASDAQ: NTAP) is down 0.3% at $35.72; Pioneer Natural Resources Co. (NYSE: PXD) is up 2.8% at $130.26 after posting a new 52-week high of $133.68 earlier today; TripAdvisor Inc. (NASDAQ: TRIP) is down 7.3% at $43.50; Zillow Inc. (NASDAQ: Z) is up 9.3% at $42.59 after posting a new 52-week high of $47.85 earlier today; Alpha Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE: ANR) is up 13.8% at $9.66 (more coal coverage here); Barrick Gold Corp. (NYSE: ABX) is up 3% at $32.54 (more coverage here); DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV) is down 3.2% at $50.00; General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) is 3.4% at $27.71 (more coverage here); and PepsiCo Inc. (NYSE: PEP) is up 1.2% at $72.34 (more coverage here).
After markets close today and before they open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear from CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS), Goldcorp Inc. (NYSE: GG), American Electric Power Co. Inc. (NYSE: AEP), Burger King Worldwide Inc. (NYSE: BKW), Campbell Soup Co. (NYSE: CPB), J.M. Smucker Co. (NYSE: SJM), and Tower International Inc. (NYSE: TOWR).
Some standouts from today include the following stocks:
H.J. Heinz Co.(NYSE: HNZ) is up 19.7% at $72.39 after posting a new 52-week high of $72.61 earlier today. The food products maker is being acquired by Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) and a private equity firm for $28 billion. More coverage here.
CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) is down 22.6% at $32.26 after posting a new 52-week low of $32.05 earlier today. The communications company cut its dividend after a poor quarter. More coverage here.
Angie's List Inc. (NASDAQ: ANGI) is up 24.6% at $16.97. The Internet firm soared on results and guidance. More coverage here.
Stay tuned for Friday. Cleveland Fed President Sandra Pianalto is giving a speech. We have also noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
- 8:30 a.m. – Empire State manufacturing survey
- 9:00 a.m. – Treasury International Capital (TIC) data
- 9:15 a.m. – Industrial production
- 9:55 a.m. – University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters consumer sentiment index
- 10:00 a.m. – E-commerce retail sales
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