Stocks are headed for a higher open this morning, as futures on
all three major indexes are pointing higher. An upbeat report from
financial bigwig JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM - 39.62) seems to
have bolstered the Street's morale -- and traders were already
feeling pretty upbeat after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's
promising comments on Wednesday. Specifically, Bernanke hinted at
the possibility of additional stimulus measures, and the bulls
seemed to take this news and run. Looking at today's calendar, the
weekly update on jobless claims will also be released, along with
retail sales for June and May's business inventories. Be sure to
check back at
throughout the day for the latest updates.
Banking bigwig JPM reported that its second-quarter net income
climbed 13% to $5.4 billion, or $1.27 per share, as more borrowers
paid their loans on time. Meanwhile, revenue rose 7% to $27.4
billion. Analysts had predicted JPM to post a much tamer profit of
$1.21 per share on $25.13 billion in revenue. According to CEO
Jamie Dimon, the company has been "working hard" to address its
past mistakes, and is committed to investing in new branches in the
U.S. and overseas. Ahead of the open, JPM is up 2.3%.
Yum Brands (YUM - 55.58) banked a second-quarter profit of $316
million, or 65 cents per share, up 10% from its year-ago earnings
of $286 million, or 59 cents per share. Excluding items, YUM earned
66 cents per share, while revenue improved 9.4% to $2.82 billion.
Analysts, on average, were looking for a profit of just 61 cents
per share on $2.70 billion in revenue. Strength in the Chinese
market helped to offset weakness on the home front; same-store
sales in China surged 18% during the recently concluded quarter,
but U.S. same-store sales backpedaled 4%. Looking ahead, YUM upped
its full-year earnings forecast to $2.83 per share, right in line
with the consensus estimate.
Hartford Financial Services (HIG - 25.60) offered up its
preliminary second-quarter results, with the insurance company
warning that it expects net earnings of just 3 cents per share --
well below analysts' forecast for 72 cents per share. On an
adjusted basis, HIG will break even for the quarter. The firm
swallowed $447 million in pre-tax catastrophe losses during the
three-month period, due in large part to a rash of severe tornadoes
in the U.S. during April and May. HIG also confessed to
higher-than-expected mesothelioma claims, which prompted the
insurance issue to boost its asbestos reserves -- resulting in
another pre-tax charge of $290 million. The company is scheduled to
report its full second-quarter results on Wednesday, Aug. 3.
Marriott International, Inc. (MAR - 37.14) confessed to a
second-quarter profit of 37 cents per share on $3 billion in
revenue, in line with analysts' expectations for a profit of 37
cents per share on slightly higher revenue of $3.02 billion.
Meanwhile, the hotel hotshot forecast fiscal 2011 earnings in the
neighborhood of $1.35 to $1.45 per share, surrounding the consensus
estimate for earnings of $1.41 per share. As a result of these
lackluster numbers, MAR has dropped nearly 5% ahead of the
Today's earnings docket will feature reports from Google (
), AngioDynamics (
), Cubist Pharmaceuticals (
), Texas Industries (
), and Fairchild Semiconductor (
). Keep your browser at
for more news as it breaks.
A round of inflation data kicks off today, with the producer
price index (PPI) and core PPI for June. The economic calendar
wraps up on Friday with the consumer price index (CPI) and core CPI
for June, the preliminary Reuters/University of Michigan consumer
sentiment index for July, the Empire State manufacturing index, and
reports on industrial production and capacity utilization.
Equity option activity on the Chicago Board Options Exchange
(CBOE) saw 987,876 call contracts traded on Wednesday, compared to
656,094 put contracts. The resultant single-session put/call ratio
docked at 0.66, while the 21-day moving average was perched at
The summer 2011 issue of
magazine is now available here.
Asian markets ended mixed today, after Moody's warned late
Wednesday that it may downgrade U.S. debt amid ongoing partisan
budget debates. The news weighed heavily on banking stocks, and
gave the Japanese yen a safe-haven boost -- thereby applying
pressure to exporters. However, commodity stocks powered higher as
oil and gold prices advanced. By the close, Japan's Nikkei was down
0.3%, China's Shanghai Composite rose 0.5%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng
edged up 0.06%, and South Korea's Kospi eked out a 0.02% rise.
European stocks are taking the U.S. debt downgrade warning a
little harder, with the major regional indexes pointed lower at
midday. Traders are also considering a disappointing bond offering
from Italy, where yields surged to a three-year peak as the
cash-strapped country looked to unload 5 billion euros' worth of
long-term debt. Meanwhile, German tech giant SAP is taking a dive
after the company admitted to softer sales trends during the second
quarter. At last check, the French CAC 40 is off 0.8%, London's
FTSE 100 is down 0.6%, and the German DAX is 0.3% lower.
Currencies and Commodities
Gold has continued its record-breaking rally this morning,
adding 5.9 points, or 0.4%, to hover at $1,591.40 an ounce. The
precious metal has been boosted by ongoing concerns about the
economic recovery in Europe and the U.S., with traders taking
refuge in the "safe haven" asset. Against this backdrop, the U.S.
dollar is trading lower this morning, down 0.1 point, or 0.1%. It's
the same story for crude, as the August-dated contract has shed 0.1
point, or 0.1%, ahead of the open. This reverses Wednesday's
EIA-induced rally; the organization said yesterday that crude
inventories fell by 3.1 million barrels last week, compared to
economists' expectations for a slimmer 1.8-million-barrel drop.
Unusual Put and Call Activity:
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