Initial Jobless Claims was reported at 364,000 as this data drifts lower towards that 350,000 recessionary threshold. Final third quarter real GDP came in lower than expected at 1.8%. The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment finished December with a better than expected reading of 69.9. Leading Economic Indicators rose by 0.5% in November. The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened higher and traded as high as 12,182.71 staying well above its 50-day and 200-day simple moving averages at 11,861 and 11,937. The NASDAQ traded between 2581.92 and 2601.99 continuing to lag its 50-day and 200-day simple moving averages at 2617 and 2662.
Asian stocks drifted lower on Thursday with the Nikkei 225 ending the day at 8,395 – down 0.77%, and the Hang Seng ending the day at 18,378 – down 0.21%. European stocks were also higher on Thursday. The FTSE 100 ending the day at 5,457 – up 1.25%; the DAX ending the day at 5,852 – up 1.05%; and the CAC 40 ending the day at 3,072 – up 1.36%. The yield on the 10-Year US Treasury note traded down from 1.975 percent to 1.916 then consolidated.
Gold was back below its 200-day simple moving average at $1619.0 the Troy ounce drifting down to $1599.1. Crude oil stayed above its 50-day and 200-day simple moving averages at $95.43 and $95.75 getting close to a bullish moving average crossover. The day’s range was $98.51 to $100.05. The euro versus the dollar traded between 1.3021 and 1.3119 staying above its January 2011 low at 1.2878.
Federal police in Brazil have recommended that criminal charges be brought against several Chevron (CVX) and Transocean (RIG) officials involved in November’s oil spill. Trading in Australia’s Gloucester Coal was suspended today, as China’s Yanzhou Coal (YZC) is expected to make a takeover bid of at least $2B. In afternoon trading: Shares of Willbros Group (WG) are up about 13%. Shares of LDK Solar (LDK) are up about 9.2%. Shares of First Solar (FSLR) are up about 8%.
Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) was trading at $69.20 at 4:00 PM on Thursday, up 1.17% on the day – up 1.39% year-to-date.
Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (POT) is raised to Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital with a new price target of 58. In afternoon trading: Shares of Ivanhoe Mines (IVN) are up about 7%. Shares of Cemex SAB (CX) are up about 6.7%. Shares of Potash are up about 6.2%. Heavily Active Stock: Shares of Alcoa (AA) are up about 1%.
The Materials Select Sector SPDR (XLB) was trading at $33.59 at 4:00 PM on Thursday, up 0.98% on the day – down 12.56% year-to-date.
Truck maker Oshkosh (OSK) has sent shareholders a proxy card asking them to ignore Carl Icahn’s efforts to install his own board members. Icahn, who has a 10% stake, is pushing for a tie-up with Navistar (NAV). WABCO Holdings (WBC) is moved to Overweight from Neutral at JP Morgan. In afternoon trading: Shares of USG Corp (USG) are up about 8.5%. Shares of Meritor (MTOR) are up about 8.3%. Shares of A123 Systems (AONE) are up about 7%.
The Industrial Select Sector SPDR (XLI) was trading at $33.77 at 4:00 PM on Thursday, up 0.94% on the day – down 3.17% year-to-date.
Toyota (TM) has forecast that sales will jump next year to a record 8.48M vehicles as it recovers from the Japanese earthquake and the Thai floods. Those disasters will lead to a 6% drop this year to 7.9M units, which will probably cause Toyota to lose its crown to GM (GM) as the world’s largest auto company by sales. The SEC has received another wrist slap for its weak enforcement actions, this time in connection to a proposed settlement with Koss Corp. (KOSS) over alleged accounting fraud. District Judge Rudolph Randa said the SEC was “vague” and failed to prove that penalties against the former CEO were fair, and cited Judge Jed Rakoff’s Citi ruling last month. The FTC is reportedly taking the lead in reviewing Citi’s (C) break-up sale of EMI to Universal Music (VIVHY) and Sony (SNE), with sources saying the agency has to play point because the Justice Department has been too busy cracking apart the AT&T/T-Mobile deal. Brunswick (BC) is resumed with an Outperform rating and $25 target price at Robert W. Baird. Hanesbrands (HBI) is assigned a Neutral at Goldman Sachs. Advance Auto Parts (AAP) is boosted to Buy from Hold at BB&T Capital. KB Home (KBH) is cut to Hold from Buy at Stifel Nicolaus.
The Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR (XLY) was trading at $38.75 at 4:00 PM on Thursday, up 0.28% on the day – up 3.58% year-to-date.
In afternoon trading: Shares of Mead Johnson (MJN) are down about 14%. Shares of Diamond Foods (DMND) are up about 10.5%. Heavily Active Stocks: Shares of CVS Caremark (CVS) are up about 1.5%. Shares of Altria Group (MO) are down about 1.9%.
The Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP) was trading at $32.34 at 4:00 PM on Thursday, relatively unchanged on the day – up 10.34% year-to-date.
Roche (RHHBY) CEO Severin Schwan has said the Swiss drugmaker is open to an M&A of more than $3B, as well as to smaller purchases also. ViroPharma (VPHM) is a new Buy and $37 price objective at Brean Murray. Zimmer Holdings (ZMH) gets a Buy-from-Neutral boost at Mizuho with a new target of $62. Boston Scientific (BSX) is moved Neutral from Buy at Mizuhom with a new target of $5.40. Vivus (VVUS) is reduced to Neutral from Buy at Roth Capital. In afternoon trading: Shares of Vivus are down about 15.75%. Shares of Alexza Pharmaceuticals (ALXA) are up about 11.5%.
The Health Care Select Sector SPDR (XLV) was trading at $34.58 at 4:00 PM on Thursday, up 0.71% on the day – up 9.76% year-to-date.
NYSE (NYX) and Deutsche Boerse (DBOEY) may have to directly lobby European Commissioners to obtain approval for their merger after being unable to assuage the concerns of EU antitrust officials about the deal’s effects on the derivatives market, Reuters reports. Two hedge funds are suing Deutsche Bank (DB) for dragging its feet on a $1B deal to buy their claims for Madoff-related losses. The FTC is reportedly taking the lead in reviewing Citi’s (C) break-up sale of EMI to Universal Music (VIVHY) and Sony (SNE), with sources saying the agency has to play point because the Justice Department has been too busy cracking apart the AT&T/T-Mobile deal. CME Group (CME) is upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Macquarie. CBOE Holdings (CBOE) is now Neutral from Outperform at Macquarie. In afternoon trading: Shares of Radian Group (RDN) are up about 11.5%. Shares of MGIC Investment (MTG) are up about 11%.
The Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF) was trading at $13.06 at 4:00 PM on Thursday, up 2.07% on the day – down 18.15% year-to-date.
Yahoo’s (YHOO) board is expected to meet today to discuss selling its holdings in Alibaba (ALBCF) and its Japanese affiliate back to their owners in a tricky tax-free deal valued at $17B, The New York Times reports. Applied Micro Circuits Corp (AMCC) is a new Outperform and $11 price objective at BMO Capital. Elster (ELT) is a fresh Buy and $18 price target at Wunderlich. VMware (VMW) and NetApp (NTAP) are initiated with a Neutrals at Ticonderoga. Ticonderoga takes a more bullish stance on EMC Corp (EMC), beginning Buy rated coverage and rolling out a $27 price target. Echelon (ELON) and Itron (ITRI) are each picked up with Neutrals at Piper Jaffray, which begins Overweights on both Elster (ELT) and Digi International (DGII). Micron (MU) is moved to Outperform from Neutral with Wedbush. Juniper Networks (JNPR) is upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at BMO Capital with a new price target of $25. TIBCO Software (TIBX) is increased to Buy from Neutral at Mizuho after earnings. VMware (VMW) is hoisted to Buy from Hold with Wunderlich with a $95 price target. Manhattan Associates (MANH) is moved to Hold from Buy at The Benchmark Company. In afternoon trading: Shares of Akamai Technologies (AKAM) are up about 17.75%. Shares of Micron are up about 17%. Shares of Hanwha SolarOne (HSOL) are up about 15.25%.
The Technology Select Sector SPDR (XLK) was trading at $25.31 at 4:00 PM on Thursday, up 1.16% on the day – up 0.48% year-to-date.
The FTC is reportedly taking the lead in reviewing Citi’s (C) break-up sale of EMI to Universal Music (VIVHY) and Sony (SNE), with sources saying the agency has to play point because the Justice Department has been too busy cracking apart the AT&T/T-Mobile deal. In afternoon trading: Shares of Alaska Communications Systems (ALSK) are down about 25.25%. Shares of TerreStar (TSTRQ) are down about 10.5%. Heavily Active Stocks: Shares of AT&T (T) are up about 1.7%, while shares of Sprint Nextel (S) are down about 0.4% and shares of Verizon (VZ) are up about 0.3%.
The NASDAQ Telecommunications Index (IXTC) was trading at $196.47 at 4:00 PM on Thursday, up 1.17% on the day – down 12.82% year-to-date.
In afternoon trading: Heavily Active Stocks: Shares of Duke Energy (DUK) are up about 0.4%. Shares of AES Corp (AES) are up about 1.5%. Shares of Exelon Corp (EXC) are down about a quarter of a percent. Shares of Genon Energy (GEN) are up about 3.75%. Shares of Southern Company (SO) are down about 0.4%.
The Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU) was trading at $35.57 at 4:00 PM on Thursday, up slightly on the day – up 13.50% year-to-date.
STOCKS: CVX, RIG, YZC, WG, LDK, FSLR, POT, IVN, CX, AA, OSK, NAV, WBC, USG, MTOR, AONE, TM, GM, KOSS, C, VIVHY, SNE, BC, HBI, KBH, MJN, DMND, CVS, MO, RHHBY, VPHM, ZMH, BSX, VVUS, ALXA, NYX, DBOEY, DB, CME, CBOE, RDN, MTG, YHOO, ALBCF, AMCC, ELT, VMW, NTAP, EMC, ELON, ITRI, ELT, DGII, MU, JNPR, TIBX, MANH, AKAM, HSOL, ALSK, TSTRQ, T, S, VZ, DUK, AES, EXC, GEN, SO