US stocks struggled to hold on to gains made yesterday after Washington lawmakers agreed to a deal to avert the fiscal cliff. With one fiscal crisis over, investors were concerned about a likely debt ceiling battle between Democrats and Republicans later this year.
"Given the track record of the current Washington crew, we can be sure we will go right to the brink and flirt with default before we reach yet another piecemeal accord," said Julia Coronado, chief North American economist at BNP Paribas, according to TheStreet
. "As in 2011, the battle over the debt ceiling will likely end with a downgrade of the US, this time from Fitch and Moody's sometime in Q2."
The Nasdaq Composite
(INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) was up 0.13% to 3,116.17 points on average trading volume of 760.07 million as of 12:09 p.m. EST.
(NASDAQ:SPWR) was the largest Nasdaq gainer on the day, soaring 34.58% to $8.25 after it announced a deal with Berkshire Hathaway
(NYSE:BRK.B) subsidiary MidAmerican Energy to start two solar projects in California worth $2 billion to $2.5 billion. Lazard also upgraded the solar panel maker to Buy from Neutral.
Shares of First Solar
(NASDAQ:FSLR) also jumped 8.78% to $34.80 following a Sell to Strong Sell upgrade from S&P Capital IQ, which also increased its price target on the stock to $26 from $16.
(NYSE:STP) (+13.19%), Yingli Green Energy
(NYSE:YGE) (+13.56%), and LDK Solar
(NYSE:LDK) (+15.06%) were all up on the day.
Discount clothing retailer Ross Stores
(NASDAQ:ROST) advanced 7.37% to $58.45 after it raised its fiscal fourth-quarter guidance to $1.05 to $1.06 per share, compared to its earlier forecast of $0.99 to $1.04 per share in net income.
The heaviest Nasdaq decliner was Allot Communications
(NASDAQ:ALLT), which plunged 23.33% to $14.02. The stock was downgraded to Perform from Outperform by Oppenheimer, which said that it projected fourth-quarter earnings and revenue misses for the Israeli developer of wireless traffic-tracking products.
Data-storage company Mellanox Technologies
(NASDAQ:MLNX) also slumped 12.81% to $53.35 after it revised its fourth-quarter revenue outlook downwards late Wednesday.
(NASDAQ:BIIB) slid 1.29% to $148.07 after the company announced that it had stopped the development of its ALS treatment
due to poor clinical trial results. The company was also downgraded to Neutral from Overweight by Piper Jaffray.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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