U.S. equity markets opened slightly lower this morning, even though the report on new U.S. claims for unemployment benefits came in a bit lower than expected. The drag on stock prices followed a statement by the European Central Bank that it is leaving the key 0.5% interest rate unchanged and is prepared to deal with negative interest rates. The Bank of England also left rates unchanged. Greek unemployment rose to a record-high of 2.8%. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei closed lower again following day of big swings in equities prices.
The U.S. dollar index is trading down 1.28% today, now at 81.5350. The GSCI commodity index is up 0.2% at 626.58. WTI crude oil closed up 1.1%, at $94.76 a barrel on the weaker dollar. Brent crude trades up about 0.6% at $103.62 a barrel. Natural gas is down 4.2% today at about $3.83 per million BTUs following a larger-than-expected build in storage. Gold settled up 1.2% today at $1,415.80.
The unofficial closing bells put the DJIA up more than 78 points to 15,039.16 (0.53%), the NASDAQ rose more than 22 points (0.66%) to 3,424.05, and the S&P 500 rose 0.84% or more than 13 points to 1,622.46.
There were a several analyst upgrades and downgrades today, including:
- Endo Health Solutions Inc. (NASDAQ: ENDP) cut to 'sell' at Cantor Fitzgerald;
- The ExOne Co. (NASDAQ: XONE) started as 'buy' with a $55 price target at Canaccord Genuity;
- J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) started as 'buy' with a price target of $23 in a counter-intuitive call at Sterne Agee;
- Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP (NYSE: KMP) restarted as 'overweight' at Barclays; and
- Vera Bradley Inc. (NASDAQ: VRA) cut to 'market perform' at Wells Fargo.
Earnings reports since markets closed last night have resulted in the following price changes today:
- ANN Inc. (NYSE: ANN) is up 1.4% at $31.51;
- J.M. Smucker Co. (NYSE: SJM) is down 3.9% at $98.40; and
- Titan Machinery Inc. (NASDAQ: TITN) is up 2.2% at $20.69.
Before markets open tomorrow morning we are scheduled to hear earnings from Quiksilver Inc. (NYSE: ZQK), Vail Resorts Inc. (NYSE: MTN), Christopher & Banks Corp. (NYSE: CBK), Crossroads Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CRDS), and JA Solar Holding Co. Ltd. (NASDAQ: JASO).
Some standouts among heavily traded stocks today include:
LightInTheBox Holding Co. Ltd. (NYSE: LITB) is up 26% at $11.96. The China-based e-commerce company held its IPO today.
Ciena Corp. (NASDAQ: CIEN) is up 17% at $19.08 after posting a new 52-week high this morning of $19.17. The networking equipment company posted better-than-expected earnings this morning.
VeriFone Systems Inc. (NYSE: PAY) is down 20.7% at $17.41 after posting a new 52-week low of $17.08 earlier today. The electronic payments firm reported decent results, but the stock sank on the forecast.
Stay tuned for Friday. We have noted the following events on the schedule (all times Eastern):
8:30 a.m. – Non-farm payrolls and unemployment rate
3:00 p.m. – Consumer credit
Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, HI/LOW, Market Close Tagged: ANN, CBK, CIEN, CRDS, ENDP, JASO, JCP, KMP, LITB, MTN, PAY, SJM, TITN, VRA, XONE, ZQK