Opening View: Bulls Look to Retain the Reins; RIMM, ORCL On the Radar

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Stocks blazed a steady path higher on Thursday, as the Street celebrated encouraging jobless data and a batch of stronger-than-anticipated earnings reports. Ahead of the bell, the major market indexes are headed even further north of round-number resistance, with earnings once again in focus. Most notably, Oracle Corp. ( ORCL ) is headed higher after wowing the Street with solid quarterly figures and a dividend hike, while Research In Motion Limited ( RIMM ) is taking the red road less traveled after offering up lackluster guidance. Ahead of the bell - and the government's latest gross domestic product ( GDP ) estimate - the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA ) has added more than 50 points, while the S&P 500 Index (SPX ) is about 5 points above breakeven.

In equities news, Research In Motion Limited ( RIMM ) stepped into the spotlight last night, reporting a better-than-anticipated fourth-quarter profit of $934 million, or $1.78 per share. However, revenue came in at $5.556 billion, falling short of analysts' forecast for sales of $5.643 billion. What's more, while the BlackBerry maker's fiscal 2012 outlook handily beat expectations, the firm offered fiscal first-quarter earnings guidance of $1.47 to $1.55 per share on revenue of $5.2 billion to $5.6 billion. In comparison, analysts, on average, estimated current-quarter profit of $1.65 per share on $5.642 billion in sales. In pre-market action, the shares of RIMM have given up about 11%.

Meanwhile, Oracle Corp. ( ORCL ) said earnings - excluding items - came in at $2.8 billion, or 54 cents per share, in the fiscal third quarter, exceeding the Street's expectations for per-share earnings of 50 cents. In addition, the tech titan said sales docked at $8.8 billion - a 37% increase from the year-ago period, and above analysts' forecast for sales of $8.7 billion. Furthermore, Oracle said it saw no material impact from the earthquake in Japan, and bolstered its quarterly dividend by 20% to 6 cents per share. Ahead of the bell, ORCL has added roughly 4%.

Finally, Accenture ( ACN ) banked a fiscal second-quarter profit of $566 million, or 75 cents per share, surpassing Wall Street's forecast of 71 cents per share. Revenue for the quarter improved to $6.1 billion, even as higher compensation costs pressured gross margin to 31.7% from 32.7% in the year-ago period. Looking ahead, ACN predicted full-year earnings of $3.22 to $3.30 per share, topping analysts' expectations for $3.14 per share. At last check, ACN is poised to open about 5% higher.

Earnings Preview

KB Home ( KBH ) is slated to step into the earnings confessional today. Keep your browser at SchaeffersResearch.com for more news as it breaks.

Economic Calendar

The economic calendar wraps up today with the government's latest gross domestic product ( GDP ) estimate for the fourth quarter, as well as the Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index.

Market Statistics

Equity option activity on the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) saw 1,379,727 call contracts traded on Thursday, compared to 789,539 put contracts. The resultant single-session put/call ratio fell to 0.57, while the 21-day moving average dipped to 0.62.

Volatility indices

NYSE and Nasdaq summary

Dow, S&P and Nasdaq futures

Trading the News: A Contrarian View. Check out this special report from Bernie Schaeffer here.

Overseas Trading

Asian stocks ended the week on a high note today, thanks to optimism about Japan's post-earthquake recovery. Along with material-related equities, automakers Toyota Motor (TM) and Nissan Motor paced the advancers after both companies outlined plans to resume production. By the close, the Nikkei added 1.07%, bringing its weekly gain to 3.6%. Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index and the Shanghai Composite rallied 1.06% apiece, with financials blazing the trail higher on the heels of solid earnings from Bank of China Ltd. Elsewhere, South Korea's Kospi jumped 0.8%, while Indian stocks rallied 2.5% as investors celebrated new tax reforms and banking laws.

European markets were also mostly higher, at last check, despite Standard & Poor's downgrade of Portugal's debt and news that the Ifo Institute's German business confidence fell for the first time in nine months in March. However, the drop was narrower than economists predicted, and the institute's president said "the business cycle traffic lights still signal 'green.'"At last look, Germany's DAX has powered 0.2% higher, London's FTSE 100 has added 0.3%, and France's CAC 40 is up 0.3%.

Overseas markets

Currencies and Commodities

The U.S. dollar has ticked higher this morning, as the U.S. Dollar Index was seen hovering around 75.78. Elsewhere, after pulling back from a 29-month high on Thursday, crude futures are trading fractionally higher. In electronic trading, the May crude futures contract has added 0.05% to flirt with $105.65 per barrel. Finally, gold futures are also positioned to extend yesterday's retreat from record highs, giving back 1.2% to linger near $1,433.70 an ounce.

Currencies and commodities

Unusual Put and Call Activity:

For an explanation of how to use this information, check out our Education Center topics on Option Volume and Open Interest Configurations .

Unusual options activity - puts

Unusual options activity - calls

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This article appears in: Investing , Options

Referenced Stocks: ACN , GDP , KBH , ORCL , RIMM

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