Futures Rise Ahead of Manufacturing Data, Jobless Claims

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After struggling to find a direction yesterday , bulls have grabbed the reins heading into today's session, with futures on all three major market indexes trading north of breakeven. The slew of domestic economic reports slated to hit the Street are driving the optimism, with traders eyeing key manufacturing data and weekly jobless claims for additional signs of an improving economy. With the stars seemingly aligning, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is seeking its seventh consecutive win , while the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) is on pace to shake off yesterday's modest pullback. At last check, the SPX is set to jump 5 points right out of the gate.

Dow, S&P and Nasdaq futures

In earnings news, Guess, Inc. (GES - 36.70) said its fiscal fourth-quarter profit landed at $98.4 million, or $1.05 per share, a 7.2% year-over-year drop from $105.4 million, or $1.11 per share. Revenue saw a slight 2.5% rise to $775.8 million. The bottom-line results were in line with analysts' expectations, while revenue fell just shy of the $778.5 million called for by the Street. For the current quarter, GES forecast a per-share profit of 25 cents to 28 cents on revenue ranging between $560 million and $575 million, well below Wall Street's projection for earnings of 48 cents per share on $609.7 million in sales. GES is trading 11% lower ahead of the bell.

Vera Bradley (VRA - 37.14) banked a fiscal fourth-quarter profit of $20.1 million, or 50 cents per share, up 41% from $14.2 million, or 35 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Meanwhile, revenue climbed by 23% to $134.5 million, boosted by a 9.3% increase in same-store sales. Analysts, on average, were expecting earnings of 47 cents per share on sales of $130.0 million. Looking ahead, the accessories designer is forecasting a first-quarter profit of 27 cents to 29 cents per share, with revenue ranging between $115 million and $117 million. Wall Street, however, is predicting earnings of 32 cents per share on sales of $117 million. VRA is down 6% in pre-market trading.

Finally, Winnebago Industries (WGO - 8.90) swallowed a fiscal second-quarter loss of $912,000, or 3 cents per share, down from its year-ago profit of $3.3 million, or 11 cents per share. Revenue for the quarter improved 24% to $131.6 million, but WGO's bottom line was dented "by increased discounts and continued aggressive pricing strategies." Analysts were expecting a profit of 2 cents per share on $120.1 million in revenue. WGO is looking to start the session with a 0.2% drop.

Earnings Preview

Today's earnings docket will also feature reports from AMC Networks ( AMCX ), Casual Male Retail ( CMRG ), Cato ( CATO ), dELiA's ( DLIA ), Pharmacyclics ( PCYC ), TravelCenters of America (TA), Dole Food (DOLE), and Primo Water (PRMW). Keep your browser at SchaeffersResearch.com for more news as it breaks.

Economic Calendar

Today's round-up will include weekly jobless claims, the Empire State manufacturing index, the Philadelphia Fed's manufacturing index, and the producer price index (PPI). The week wraps up on Friday with the consumer price index (CPI), industrial production and capacity utilization, and the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for mid-March.

Market Statistics

Equity option activity on the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) saw 1,606,379 call contracts traded on Wednesday, compared to 898,903 put contracts. The resultant single-session put/call ratio arrived at 0.61, while the 21-day moving average was 0.64.

NYSE and Nasdaq summary

Volatility indices

Overseas Trading

Stocks in Asia ended mixed today, tracking Wednesday's hot-and-cold finish on Wall Street. Japanese exporters gained ground as the dollar strengthened against the yen, with Mazda, Honda, and Canon among the notable beneficiaries. On the other hand, developers continued to struggle in China, after Premier Wen Jiabao reaffirmed the government's commitment to property curbs earlier this week. By the close, Japan's Nikkei rose 0.7%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.2%, South Korea's Kospi retreated 0.06%, and China's Shanghai Composite gave up 0.7%.

Meanwhile, European equities are relatively flat at midday, with traders on pins and needles ahead of U.S. employment and manufacturing data due out later in the session. Auto stocks are a pocket of weakness, after an industry group said the euro zone's car market contracted by 11.8% in February. London-listed equities are also struggling, as Fitch lowered its outlook on the U.K.'s triple-A credit rating to negative -- suggesting a downgrade is not out of the question. At last look, London's FTSE 100 is 0.09% lower, the French CAC 40 is down 0.01%, and the German DAX has tacked on 0.3%.

Overseas markets

Currencies and Commodities

The U.S. dollar index is pulling back this morning, after gaining momentum on the Fed's unchanged monetary policy . At last check, the greenback was trading 0.1% lower at $80.46. Conversely, crude oil is on the rebound , with the front month contract up 0.1% at $106.06 per barrel. Gold futures are on the mend, as well, with the malleable metal 0.3% higher at $1,647.50 an ounce.

Currencies and commodities

Unusual Put and Call Activity:

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Unusual options activity - puts

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This article appears in: Investing , Options

Referenced Stocks: AMCX , CATO , CMRG , DLIA , PCYC

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