HP’s Downgrade, Healthcare’s Upgrade, and Strong Auto Sales: Market Recap

The U.S. equity markets advanced on Tuesday. Investors seem to brush aside poor manufacturing data out of Europe and took strong U.S. factory orders data as a good omen. The Dow and S&P set fresh records.

At the close: DJIA: +0.61%, S&P 500: +0.42%, NASDAQ: +0.48%.

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On the commodities front, WTI crude oil (NYSEARCA:USO) fell 0.23 percent to $96.85 per barrel. The yield on the 10-year T-note increased 0.029 points to 1.862 percent. Gold (NYSEARCA:GLD) fell 1.54 percent to $1,576.30 per ounce, and Silver (NYSEARCA:SLV) fell 2.49 percent to $27.21 per ounce.

Here’s your Cheat Sheet to today’s top stock stories:

AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) has traveled a bumpy road in recent months after facing sharp declines in revenue as patents on top-selling drugs — including the cholesterol treatment Crestor and its antipsychotic medicine Seroquel — expire. And the pharmaceutical manufacturer’s patent problems keep mounting. A United States District Court in New Jersey ruled Tuesday that the patent protecting the Anglo-Swedish company’s asthma drug Pulmicort Respules is invalid… (Read more.)

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) closed the day down 5.19 percent. In the absence of other major news, a downgrade to Sell from an analyst at Goldman Sachs is being credited as the catalyst for the movement. “Sentiment has moved ahead of reality. While we recognize H-P’s valuation remains compressed, we believe that the stock has room to fall under earnings powers comes under incremental pressure,” the analyst wrote, according to ValueWalk.

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United Health (NYSE:UNH) closed the day up 4.7 percent. Like with HP, in the absence of other major news an analyst upgrade has been cited as the catalyst for the movement. Raymond James upgraded the stock from Outperform to Strong Buy with a price target of $71, a 15 percent upside on its closing price. The analyst expects the company to benefit from higher payouts in medicare.

Hertz (NYSE:HTZ) closed the day up 6.85 percent after outlining a growth plan that was better than most expectations. Hertz completed a $2.2 billion acquisition of former-rival Dollar Thrifty in the fourth quarter, and will no be able to focus on profitability instead of competition.

Delta Air Lines (DAL) closed the day down 8.06 percent after reporting that passenger revenue per available seat mile climbed just 2 percent in March, short of expectations for 4 percent growth. The company commented: “The reduction from previous guidance is due to lower close-in bookings driven by the sequester, lower than expected demand as a result of our attempt to drive higher yields, and temporary inefficiencies during implementation of new revenue management technology.”

Humana (NYSE:HUM) climbed 5.45 percent, toward the head of a 1.19 percent gain across the healthcare industry in general. Healthcare stocks were buoyed by news of a reimbursement rate reversal by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

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Nuance Communications (NASDAQ:NUAN) closed the day up 5.7 percent after news got out that Carl Icahn owns a 9.3 percent stake (worth about $591 million) in the company. Nuance Communications builds voice recognition software and is reportedly the mastermind behind Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Siri.

Following strong domestic performance for the month of March, American car manufacturers are seeing shares rise across the board. Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) posted its first-ever quarterly profit, sending its shares racing over 20 percent on Monday, and settling ahead 16 percent by closing. Ford (NYSE:F) had a great month of March, reporting its best monthly sales since May of 2007. General Motors (NYSE:GM) followed suit, with its best March in five years, and landed 6 percent up in its year-over-year measure.

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