After last week's brutal sell-off, stocks are poised to begin
the week on a high note. Investors are hopeful this Monday morning,
with expectations high ahead of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben
Bernanke's speech on Friday. Later this week, U.S. and
international central bankers are scheduled to meet in Jackson
Hole, Wyo., for an annual conference organized by the Kansas City
Federal Reserve Bank. Bernanke's address on Friday has raised hopes
of further stimulus from the Fed, which at the same event last year
signaled plans for a second round of quantitative easing.
Also boosting sentiment this morning are hopes for lower oil
prices, as it seems that Muammar Gaddafi's regime is on the verge
of collapse. President Barack Obama on Sunday called on the Libyan
president to step down; and earlier today, NATO confirmed that the
Gaddafi regime "is clearly crumbling." Should the regime fall,
analysts believe that oil prices are likely to slide, too. Amid
this backdrop, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA )
are hovering over 137 points north of fair value, while the S&P
500 Index (SPX) is trading 17 points higher. However, with Bernanke
not taking the stage until Friday, the market could remain somewhat
range-bound this week -- which would be a welcome change, given the
recent violent volatility plaguing stocks.
Similarly, Westlake Chemical Corporation (WLK - 37.81) also
announced stock buyback plans. Earlier this morning, the company
said it plans to buy back as much as $100 million of its stock on
the open market or privately. The chemical concern also hiked its
quarterly dividend by 16%, to 7.375 cents per share. The dividend
will be payable Sept. 13 to holders of record Sept. 2.
Today's earnings docket will feature reports from Focus Media
), Perfect World (
), and Sky-mobi (
). Keep your browser at
for more news as it breaks.
There are no major economic releases scheduled for today.
Tuesday's economic calendar features new home sales for July, along
with the Richmond Fed's manufacturing index for August. Durable
goods orders for July are due out on Wednesday, as well as the
regularly scheduled update on petroleum stockpiles. Thursday brings
our usual weekly report on initial and continuing jobless claims.
The economic calendar ends with a bang on Friday, with all eyes
turning to Jackson Hole and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's highly
anticipated speech on "Near- and Long-Term Prospects for the U.S.
Economy." Also slated to hit the Street are the Commerce
Department's revised estimate of second-quarter gross domestic
), and the final Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer
sentiment index for August.
Equity option activity on the Chicago Board Options Exchange
(CBOE) saw 1,085,078 call contracts traded on Friday, compared to
1,132,715 put contracts. The resultant single-session put/call
ratio arrived at 1.04, while the 21-day moving average was
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Stocks in Asia ended mostly lower today, though Hong Kong-listed
equities were able to snap their four-day slump. Banking issue HSBC
led the advance, rising 2% to recover some recent losses. Elsewhere
in the region, lackluster corporate earnings and ongoing concerns
about the health of the global economy kept most traders on the
sidelines. In Tokyo, the yen retreated from its freshly tagged
post-World War II peak against the dollar, but remained strong
enough to keep exporters under familiar pressure. By the close,
South Korea's Kospi slid 2%, Japan's Nikkei fell 1%, China's
Shanghai Composite gave up 0.7%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added
Conversely, European markets are pointed higher at midday. Eni
helped lead the regional gainers, with the Italian oil-and-gas
issue rallying on news that rebels took the Libyan capital of
Tripoli. However, financial stocks slipped after Deutsche Bank
downgraded the group to "neutral" from "overweight," citing
concerns over slackening euro-zone growth. At last check, the
French CAC 40 is up 2%, London's FTSE 100 is 2.5% higher, and the
German DAX has climbed 1%.
Currencies and Commodities
Crude futures have advanced this morning, as reports that
Muammar Gaddafi may be stepping down have bolstered hopes for
ramped-up production. Ahead of the open, crude futures are up 0.8
point, or 1%. Meanwhile, after last week's dramatic sell-off, the
U.S. dollar index is trading 0.1 point, or 0.2%, lower. Elsewhere,
with larger global economic issues weighing on sentiment, gold has
continued its record-setting rally. Ahead of the open, gold futures
are up 23.4 points, or 1.3%, to hover around $1,875.60 an
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