U.S. markets have not been able to pull up from their earlier downturn in midday trading, as the major indices appear to be headed for their second straight session of declines on Wednesday.
Falling crude prices aren't helping matters, as the commodity shows extreme volatility in trading today. Industry standard Brent crude futures contracts have remained in the red all day, but have pared some losses from earlier in the session -- to decline only $0.14 to $33.13 per barrel. Meanwhile, West Texas crude contracts spent some time in positive territory in earlier trading today, before declining $0.75 to $31.12 around noon.
Crude prices are falling after Iran's oil minister -- whose oil was recently made available to the world market after sanctions against the country were lifted -- called Russia and Saudi Arabia's plan to halt production "ridiculous."
The comments came before Saudi Arabia's oil minister Ali al-Naimi told a conference in Houston yesterday that freezing production at January levels was the beginning of a process. "Maybe not all of them, but most of the countries that count will freeze," al-Naimi said. Iran is not one of those countries and has historically been one of Saudi Arabia's staunchest political rivals. While signaling that it would be amenable to a production freeze, Saudi Arabia said that it would be dependent on other countries like Iran and Iraq also not raising their production.
Domestically, Ford Motor (F) shares were dropping, down over 5% on heavy volume, after Credit Suisse downgraded the company's stock to Underperform from Neutral. The firm left its price target on Ford unchanged at $13. Credit Suisse sees the company's North American 2016 EBIT guidance as being "overly optimistic."
Freeport-McMoRan (FCX) is also falling sharply on heavy volume, continuing to dive after analysts at Citigroup downgraded the stock to Sell from Neutral. The firm is bearish on the company's plan to put all of its assets under review for sale, with the focus on raising up to $10 billion to make up for slumping commodity prices as its debt starts to mature.
Avis Budget Group (CAR) is also falling sharply today, after the rental car company matched analysts' quarterly expectations, but provided weak full-year guidance. The top of the company's earnings guidance is $0.13 short of analyst consensus, while revenue is in line.
Action Alerts PLUS holding Target (TGT) is surprisingly one of the leaders today, rising over 3% on nearly double its daily trading volume, despite missing analysts' top- and bottom-line fourth-quarter expectations. Increased online and bricks and mortar traffic helped the company post a 2% rise in comps for the period.
Read Jim Cramer's take on Target.