Stocks finished Wednesday's session with both feet in the red,
after lackluster economic data -- including a somewhat
ominous employment report
from payroll processor ADP -- spooked the bulls. Ahead of the bell,
the major market indexes are poised to extend their retreat, with
the Street digesting earnings reports from heavyweights like
General Motors (
) and Transocean Ltd. (RIG). Later in the session, investors will
take their cues from a round of retail sales reports and weekly
jobless figures, as well as an early speech from Federal Reserve
Chairman Ben Bernanke. In pre-market trading, the Dow Jones
Industrial Average (DJIA ) is set to open nearly 34 points lower,
while the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX ) is flirting with a
6-point drop out of the gate.
In equities news, Transocean Ltd. (RIG - 68.46) said
first-quarter profit fell to $310 million, or 96 cents per share --
a drop of more than 50% from the year-earlier quarter. Analysts, on
average, were anticipating a per-share profit of 80 cents for RIG.
Revenue, meanwhile, declined to $2.14 billion from $2.58 billion,
falling short of the Street's expectations for sales of $2.25
billion. The offshore rig contractor attributed the significant
year-over-year decline to the deepwater drilling moratorium in the
Gulf of Mexico, with utilization rates tumbling to 55% from 60% a
year ago. At last check, RIG is set to open about 2.7% lower.
Meanwhile, Electronic Arts (ERTS - 19.92) reported fiscal
fourth-quarter earnings of $83 million, or 25 cents per share,
excluding items, on revenue of $995 million. Analysts, on average,
had forecast an adjusted profit of 22 cents per share on sales of
$924 million. However, the video game maker projected a
current-quarter loss of 44 cents to 49 cents per share on revenue
of $460 million to $500 million, and said it expects fiscal-year
earnings of 70 cents to 90 cents per share on sales of $3.75
billion to $3.95 billion. The firm's outlook fell short of the
Street's predictions, with analysts calling for a current-quarter
loss of 36 cents per share on revenue of $516 million, and
fiscal-year earnings of 85 cents per share on sales of $3.94
billion. In pre-market trading, ERTS has tacked on 1.6%.
Elsewhere, Whole Foods Market Inc. (WFMI - 59.74) reported net
income of $89.9 million, or 51 cents per share, for the fiscal
second quarter, up 33% from the year prior. Revenue for the quarter
rose a year-over-year 12% to $2.4 billion, while same-store sales
jumped 7.8%. Analysts, on average, were expecting a quarterly
profit of 46 cents per share on sales of $2.37 billion. In
addition, the grocery guru upped its fiscal-year earnings guidance
to a range of $1.87 to $1.90 per share, compared to its previous
expectations for per-share earnings of $1.76 to $1.80. According to
Thomson Reuters, Wall Street is calling for a fiscal 2011 profit of
$1.80 per share. Ahead of the bell, WFMI is up more than 4%.
Finally, General Motors (GM - 33.04) reported a first-quarter
profit of $3.2 billion, or $1.77 per share, more than tripling its
year-ago results of $900 million, or 55 cents per share. Excluding
items, GM banked a profit of 95 cents per share, while revenue
improved to $36.2 billion from $31.5 billion on a year-over-year
basis. Consensus estimates on Wall Street were calling for a profit
of 91 cents per share on revenue of $35.59 billion. At last check,
GM is poised to give up about 0.8% at the open.
Today's earnings docket will feature reports from Kraft Foods
(KFT), Visa Inc. (V), CBOE Holdings (
), Chiquita Brands International (
), CVS Caremark (
), Petrohawk Energy (HK), Fortune Brands (
), Estee Lauder (EL), Priceline.com (PCLN), and Prudential
Financial (PRU), just to name a few. Keep your browser at
for more news as it breaks.
Reports on first-quarter productivity and weekly jobless figures
are due out today, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is
slated to speak at the Chicago Fed conference. Finally, the Labor
Department's highly anticipated unemployment data will take center
stage before the opening bell tomorrow, with the Fed's monthly
consumer credit report slated for release in the afternoon.
Equity option activity on the Chicago Board Options Exchange (
) saw 1,303,559 call contracts traded on Wednesday, compared to
941,839 put contracts -- the most single-session put activity since
options expiration on Friday, April 15. The resultant
single-session put/call ratio docked at 0.72 -- the highest since
March 17 -- while the 21-day moving average jumped to a four-week
high of 0.61.
The spring 2011 issue of
magazine is now available here.
Chinese stocks ended mostly lower again today, as buyers
remained sidelined amid expectations for a potential rate hike out
of Beijing. Softer commodity prices were driving resource-related
stocks like Cnooc Ltd. and PetroChina lower, while property
developers suffered on news of a significant year-over-year drop in
housing transactions in April. By the close, Hong Kong's Hang Seng
gave up 0.2%, while the Shanghai Composite eked out a gain of 0.2%.
Japanese and South Korean markets were closed for holiday.
Elsewhere, European stocks were also in the red around midday,
as investors digest news that the Bank of England and the European
Central Bank held their respective interest rates steady, as
expected. In equities news, Lloyds Banking Group was dragging down
London-listed stocks, after the U.K. financial firm confessed to a
weaker-than-expected first quarter. Likewise, Societe Generale was
pacing the laggards in France after reporting an unexpected drop in
first-quarter earnings. At last check, Germany's DAX has given up
about 0.7%, the FTSE 100 has shed nearly 0.8%, and France's CAC 40
has surrendered 1.2%.
Currencies and Commodities
The greenback is trading fractionally higher this morning, with
the U.S. dollar index up 0.01%. Elsewhere, after falling to a
two-week low on Wednesday, crude futures have extended their
retreat in pre-market action. At last check, the June-dated
contract has given up 2.4% to hover around $106.62 per barrel.
Meanwhile, gold futures are trading nearly 1.1% lower to linger
beneath the $1,500-an-ounce marker, while silver -- which finished
at a four-week nadir yesterday -- has continued its slide, falling
Unusual Put and Call Activity:
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