- US: Dow: 13275.20 (0.19%), S&P 500: 1418.16 (0.19%), NASDAQ: 3076.59 (0.46%)
- Europe: CAC: 3488.38 (0.23%), DAX: 7040.88 (0.63%), FTSE: 5852.42 (0.31%).
- Asia-Pacific: Australia: 4370.10 (0.92%), China: 2114.89 (0.13%), Hong Kong: 20116.07 (0.76%), India: 5366.30 (0.06%), Japan: 9162.52 (0.76%).
- Metals: Gold: 1619.40 (0.01%), Silver: 28.00 (-0.74%), Copper: 3.42 (1.09%)
- Energy: Crude Oil: 96.01 (0.43%), Natural Gas: 2.72 (-0.18%)
- Commodities: Corn: 8.07 (-0.03%), Soya Bean: 16.45 (1.26%), Wheat: 8.94 (1.45%)
- Currency: Euro (€) / US Dollar ($) (EURUSD): 1.2330 (0.20%), British Pound Sterling (UK£) / US Dollar ($) (GBPUSD): 1.5693 (0.27%), US Dollar ($) / Japanese Yen (¥) (USDJPY): 79.5550 (0.29%)
- 10 year US Treasury: 1.810% (-0.024)
Market and Economy News Update
U.S. markets end higher: U.S. markets closed higher on Friday in another session of listless trading after consumer sentiment rose to its highest level since May, and the index of leading economic indicators rose 0.4 percent in July, against expectations of a gain of 0.2 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) gained 25.09 points, or 0.19 percent to close at 13,275.90. The S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) eked out a gain of 2.65 points, or 0.19 percent, to finish at 1,418.16, while the NASDAQ Composite (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) climbed 14.20 points, or 0.46 percent, to end at 3,076.59. For the week, the Dow added 0.51 percent, the S&P 500 rose 0.87 percent, and the NASDAQ climbed 1.84 percent. The Dow and the S&P 500 ended higher for the sixth-consecutive week.
Oil prices end higher: Oil prices gained on Friday as better than expected U.S. economic data boosted expectations for energy demand from the world’s biggest consumer. Brent crude futures fell more than 1 percent amid expectations of a rebound in North Sea output. Crude oil for September delivery gained 0.4 percent, to settle at $96.01 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent oil for September settlement fell 1.3 percent to $113.76 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange.
Stocks in Focus
- Offshore oil explorer ATP Oil & Gas Corporation (NASDAQ:ATPG) has filed for bankruptcy, according to a report in Bloomberg News.
- Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT), the world’s largest maker of construction equipment said global equipment sales increased by 14 percent over the past three months, as better than expected performance in North America and Asia-Pacific offset weakness in Europe, Middle East and Africa.
- Prudential Financial Inc (NYSE:PRU), the second largest U.S. life insurer has emerged as the lead bidder for The Hartford Financial Services Grup Inc (NYSE:HIG)’s individual life insurance business, Bloomberg reported.
- Used-car seller America’s Car–Mart, Inc. (NASDAQ:CRMT) plunged 5.8 percent after reporting lower than expected first quarter earnings and revenue. The company profit or the quarter came in at $8.12 million, or 83 cents a share, down from $8.27 million or 78 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue increased 9.4 percent to $110 million from $101 million last year. Analysts were expecting a per-share profit of 87 cents.
- Boutique clothing retailer Francesca’s Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:FRAN) soared 10.7 percent on the disclosure that Fidelity Management Corp. increased its stake in the company by 13 percent during the three-month period ended June 30.
- U.S. private equity firm Carlyle Group LP (NASDAQ:CG) has expressed interest in a potential takeover of British-based military equipment maker Chemring Group plc (LON:CHG).
- Financial services company Life Partners Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ:LPHI) ended 18 percent lower on news that Texas regulators have filed a civil court complaint alleging that it fraudulently sold unregistered securities to investors
- Optical networking components maker Oplink Communications, Inc (NASDAQ:OPLK) surged 14.4 percent after reporting fourth quarter earnings above market expectations, and forecasting better than expected first-quarter adjusted earnings. Fourth quarter earnings excluding one-time items came in at 19 cents per share, on revenue of $44.2 million. Analysts were expecting adjusted earnings of 12 cents per share and $44.5 million in revenue.
- Geophysical services company ION Geophysical Corp (NYSE:IO) fell 11.3 percent after a federal jury found that the company infringed patents from WesternGeco LLC, and ordered it to pay $105.9 million in damages.
- 21Vianet Group Inc (NASDAQ:VNET), China’s largest independent Internet data-center operator, sank 10.6 percent after reporting reported second-quarter profit of 18.2 million yuan ($2.9 million), much lower than what analysts were expecting. Total revenue for the quarter stood at 364.5 million.
- Biosante Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ:BPAX) ended 6.5 percent lower after announcing that it received a commitment from an institutional investor to purchase about $3.47 million of securities in a registered direct offering.
- MER Telemanagement Solutions Ltd. (NASDAQ:MTSL), a provider of business support systems for the telecom industry, soared 41 percent after reporting better than expected second quarter results. The company reported second quarter earnings per share of 10 cents, up from 5 cents a year earlier. Revenues increased to $3.3 million from $3 million last year.
Hedge Fund News Update
- Hedge fund managers are betting on a spike in crude oil prices amid the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran, Reuters reported. Efforts by the West to curtail Iran’s’ nuclear program have failed to pay-off, which has raised fears that a strike on Iran is imminent. Regulatory data showed that hedge funds managers increased their bullish bets in U.S. oil markets a week ago to the highest level since early May.
- Brigade Capital Management LLC has hired distressed-debt analyst Scott Hoffman from Deutsche Bank AG (USA) (NYSE:DB) (ETR:DBK) (FRA:DBK), Bloomberg News reported.
- Indian market regulator SEBI has allowed seven Alternative Investment Funds to set up shop in the country. Those that have registered with the SEBI include KKR India Alternate Credit Opportunities Fund, Sabre Partners Trust, Utthishta Yekum Fund, IFCI Syncamore India Infrastructure Fund, Indiaquotient Investment Trust, Forefront Alternate Investment Trust and Excedo Realty Fund.
- The $73 billion Ohio Public Employees Retirement System has hired New York-based MacKay Shields to run $300 million in global high-yield fixed income.
- QFS Asset Management, the $1.9 billion quantitative hedge fund, has named Jim Xiong as its as co-chief investment officer.
Brokerage Upgrades and Downgrades on Friday, August 17, 2012
- Brocade Communications Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:BRCD) was upgraded to “sector perform” from “underperform” by analysts at Pacific Crest.
- Baytex Energy Corp (USA) (NYSE:BTE) was lifted to “outperform” from “sector perform” by analysts at National Bank.
- Credicorp Ltd. (USA) (NYSE:BAP) was raised to “overweight” from “neutral” by analysts at JPMorgan Chase.
- Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation (NYSE:COG) was upgraded to “overweight” from “neutral” by analysts at JPMorgan Chase with a target price of $54.50.
- GT Advanced Technologies Inc (NASDAQ:GTAT) was lifted to “buy” from “hold” by analysts at Canaccord Genuity with a target price of $9.
- KCAP Financial Inc (NASDAQ:KCAP) was raised to “buy” from “hold” by analysts at Stifel Nicolaus with a target price of $9.50.
- Meadowbrook Insurance Group, Inc. (NYSE:MIG) was upgraded to “outperform” from “market perform” by analysts at FBR Capital with a target price of $10.
- Northern Oil & Gas, Inc. (NYSEAMEX:NOG) was lifted to “overweight” from “neutral” by analysts at JPMorgan Chase.
- Viacom, Inc. (NASDAQ:VIAB) was raised to “outperform” from “market perform” by analysts at Wells Fargo & Co.
- Medtronic, Inc. (NYSE:MDT) was upgraded to