Opening View: DJIA Set to Start 2012 with a Triple-Digit Lead; Chinese, Domestic Data in Focus

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U.S. stocks are set to kick off 2012 on a high note, thanks to encouraging manufacturing data from China and optimism ahead of a duo of domestic reports. Specifically, investors are awaiting the Institute for Supply Management's ( ISM ) monthly manufacturing data, which is slated for release at 10 a.m. EST. Later in the session, traders will turn their attention to the central bank, with the minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee's (FOMC) mid-December meeting on tap at 2 p.m. EST. In the meantime, commodities are in the spotlight, with crude and gold futures exploiting a weaker dollar, and BP plc ( BP ), Halliburton ( HAL ), and Chesapeake Energy ( CHK ) making headlines. Against this backdrop, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is poised to open its first session of the year with a triple-digit jump out of the gate.

Dow, S&P and Nasdaq futures

In equities news, BP plc (BP - 42.74) late yesterday called on Halliburton (HAL - 34.51) to pay for the entire cleanup of the April 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. According to Reuters, BP previously estimated the total costs of the cleanup at $42 billion, though the court filing didn't specify how much BP is seeking from HAL. In pre-market action, BP is headed 2.1% higher, while HAL is bracing for a 0.6% drop.

Elsewhere, France's Total SA (TOT - 51.11) agreed to a joint venture with Chesapeake Energy (CHK - 22.29) and EnerVest. Specifically, TOT agreed to pay $2.3 billion for a 25% stake in the duo's joint chunk of the Utica shale formation in eastern Ohio. The latest venture with Total covers about 619,000 net acres, of which 77,000 were contributed by EnerVest, Chesapeake said. According to analysts, Total paid roughly $14,800 per acre. At last check, the American shares of TOT are set to open 1.6% higher, while CHK is headed for a 3% gain out of the gate.

Earnings Preview

Today's earnings docket will feature reports from Progress Software ( PRGS ) and Team Inc. (TISI). Keep your browser at SchaeffersResearch.com for more news as it breaks.

Economic Calendar

The economic calendar for 2012 kicks off with a bang today, with the release of the ISM manufacturing index, monthly construction spending stats, and the minutes from the latest meeting of the FOMC. Factory orders are slated for release on Wednesday. Thanks to Monday's holiday, the ADP private-sector payrolls report and weekly crude inventories will hit the Street one day later than usual, on Thursday. Also on tap are the ISM services index and weekly jobless claims. Finally, we wrap up the holiday-shortened week on Friday with the Labor Department's monthly report on nonfarm payrolls and the unemployment rate for December.

Market Statistics

Equity option activity on the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) saw 540,216 call contracts traded on Friday, compared to 296,003 put contracts. The resultant single-session put/call ratio arrived at 0.55, while the 21-day moving average was 0.71.

NYSE and Nasdaq summary

Volatility indices

Overseas Trading

Stocks in Asia ended higher today, bolstered by upbeat economic data out of China. The country's official purchasing managers index improved to 50.3 in December -- up from 49.0 in November, and surpassing consensus estimates for a smaller rise to 49.1. The latest reading points to modest expansion in Chinese manufacturing activity, relieving some anxieties about a slowdown in the key emerging market. However, regional volume was relatively light, with markets in mainland China and Japan on holiday hiatus. By the close, South Korea's Kospi rallied 2.7%, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 2.4%.

Commodity stocks are leading the gainers in Europe, thanks to China's well-received manufacturing data. The bulls are also cheering signs of economic health out of Germany, after a closely watched employment report came in stronger than expected. However, weakness in banking stocks has killed the early momentum in Paris. At last look, London's FTSE 100 is up 1%, the German DAX has gained 0.8%, and the French CAC 40 is off 0.7%.

Overseas markets

Currencies and Commodities

The greenback is headed lower this morning, with the U.S. dollar index down 0.6%. Elsewhere, crude oil futures have extended last week's uptrend , with the front-month contract last seen 2.8% higher at $101.55 per barrel. Finally, gold futures are also pointed solidly higher, with the malleable metal up 1.9% to linger near $1,595.90 an ounce.

Currencies and commodities

Unusual Put and Call Activity:

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Unusual options activity - puts

Unusual options activity - calls

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This article appears in: Investing , Options

Referenced Stocks: BP , CHK , HAL , ISM , PRGS

Schaeffer's Investment Research

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