We welcome March this week but Groundhog Day clearly doesn't want to let go. Stocks slumped and volatility surged as Italian angst returned; investors have indeed been here before. The Dow (^DJI) plunged to its lowest level since January 23 after it became clear Rome remains torn between a convict and a comedian. (And you thought our politics were crazy.)
Pity our 16th president. Fresh from being the victim of a comedian who killed before a billion people, he had to watch from on high as Lincoln National (LNC) fell 4.71% and Lincoln Educational (LINC) lost 4.85% in especially torrid trading for the insurance and educational sectors.
BP Plc (BP), whose former CEO would like his "life back," tumbled 3.42% amid ongoing Gulf of Mexico legal angst. Cemetery stock StoneMor Partners (STON), whose clients are alas unlikely to enjoy what Tony Hayward so desires, surged 1.74% and fellow funeral firm Carriage Services (CSV) rose 2.38% after-hours. Amgen (AMGN) advanced 3.14% to top the S&P 500 (^GSPC). It stands at a fresh all-time peak after appropriately-named analyst Boris Peaker at Oppenheimer sung the biotech's praises.
Today in economics, new home sales for January and February consumer confidence are each expected to tick up at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, and Fed head Ben Bernanke begins two days of testimony on Capitol Hill. In earnings action, AutoZone (AZO), BASF (BASFY), DreamWorks Animation (DWA), Edison International (EIX), Gulfport Energy (GPOR), HollyFrontier (HFC), Home Depot (HD), Macy's (M), Priceline (PCLN), RadioShack (RSH), R.R. Donnelley (RRD), Saks Inc. (SKS), TiVo Inc. (TIVO), and Vivendi (VIVHY) are all due to report results.
Altria (MO): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers the tobacco titan to Neutral from Buy.
Archer-Daniels Midland (ADM): The stock is reduced to Market Perform from Outperform by BMO Capital.
Atmel (ATML): Shares get cut to Market Perform from Outperform with a $7.50 price objective at FBR Capital on concerns that the company isn't in pole position any longer to secure the Samsung (SSNLF) Galaxy S4 touch controller contract.
Chesapeake Energy (CHK): Following yesterday's 6.78% slide in the stock, shares are slipping further before the bell after Johnson Rice reduced its rating to Equal Weight from Overweight.
Colgate-Palmolive (CL): Bank of America-Merrill moves the stock to Neutral from Buy against a backdrop of challenging sales growth. Its price objective is $119.
Greatbatch (GB): The medical appliance name is now Market Perform from Outperform at Northland Securities
Kyocera Corp (KYO): KYO is cut to Neutral from Buy at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.
Lorillard (LO): Cr�dit Agricole lowers the cigarette stock to Underperform from Buy after Mitch Zeller was named to head the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Tobacco Products. As a result of his appointment, the chance of a menthol ban has risen considerably, according to the analyst. The target price is now $42, down from $49.
LSI Logic (LSI): The tech stock is taken to Market Perform from Outperform with an $8 price objective at FBR Capital. Issues include a substantial sequential drop in first quarter personal computer shipments.
Meredith Corp. (MDP): Piper Jaffray moves the media firm to Neutral from Overweight due to valuation.
Rosetta Resources (ROSE): Miller Tabak reduces ROSE to Sell from Hold.
Texas Instruments (TXN): Evercore slashes the semiconductor stock to Equal Weight from Overweight.
Transocean (RIG): RIG is reduced to Neutral from Outperform at Macquarie.
Tyson Foods (TSN): Troubled by uncertainty over the near-term availability of cattle, Stephens takes TSN to Equal Weight from Overweight and trims its target by $2 to $26.