Stocks performed a mid-session about-face on Wednesday, with
energy- and material-related equities pacing an afternoon run into
the black. Ahead of the bell, the major market indexes are poised
to continue their climb in parity with crude oil futures, which
have rocketed above $106 per barrel amid escalating tension in the
Middle East and North Africa. Furthermore, the Street appears ready
to put concerns about Europe's fiscal health on the proverbial back
burner, after Portugal's prime minister resigned in the wake of
parliament's rejection of further austerity measures. At last check
- and ahead of data on jobless claims and durable goods - the Dow
Jones Industrial Average (DJIA ) is in position to extend its trek
north of 12,000, while the S&P 500 Index (SPX ) looks ready to
once again battle the round-number 1,300 level.
In equities news, Caterpillar (
) last night reiterated its forecast for 2011 earnings of $6 per
share, which represents a 45% improvement over the same period a
year ago. Furthermore, the blue chip said it's "confident" that it
will meet its 2012 goals, and vowed to invest $5 billion by 2015 to
boost production capacity in the wake of escalating demand. "We're
on a roll and we're in a hurry," Chairman and CEO Douglas
Oberhelman told analysts at a Las Vegas trade show. Ahead of the
bell, the shares of CAT are positioned to extend their recent quest
for new highs.
On the earnings front, Micron Technology (
) stepped into the earnings spotlight last night, reporting a net
profit of $72 million, or 7 cents per share, on revenue of $2.3
billion for the fiscal second quarter. In comparison, analysts were
expecting earnings of 2 cents per share on sales of $2.07 billion.
While the firm said it can't yet determine whether Japan' nuclear
crisis will be positive or negative for the company, it's expecting
demand from customers to strengthen from the current quarter to
next. In pre-market trading, MU is flirting with a 6% lead.
Meanwhile, Red Hat (
) last night said adjusted fourth-quarter earnings - excluding
items - soared 43% to $33.5 million, or 26 cents a share, while
revenue rose a year-over-year 25% to $244.8 million. The results
were better than the Street expected, with analysts, on average,
calling for adjusted earnings of 22 cents a share on sales of
$235.9 million. "The strong demand we experienced was largely
driven by customers who are modernizing their data centers and
preparing their infrastructure for cloud computing," said President
and CEO Jim Whitehurst. At last check, RHT is poised to open more
than 13% higher.
Finally, Starbucks Corp. (
) revealed plans to launch single-serve beverage machines via a new
partnership with Courtesy Products. What's more, the coffee king
said the machines will cost less than Keurig brewers, which retail
for approximately $179.99. Separately, SBUX also announced that
it's extended its contract with Italian retail and catering
operator Autogrill SpA for another 10 years. Furthermore, the duo
said they're planning to open 120 North American stores over the
next decade. Ahead of the bell, the shares of SBUX are slightly
The earnings calendar features reports from the likes of Best
), China Sunergy (CSUN), ConAgra Foods (CAG), GameStop (GME),
Lennar Corp. (LEN), Talbots (TLB), Darden Restaurants (DRI), Finish
Line (FINL), Oracle Corp. (ORCL), and Research In Motion Limited
(RIMM). Keep your browser at
for more news as it breaks.
The economic calendar today will feature the latest jobless
claims, as well as February's durable-goods data. Finally, Friday
ends 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.
Equity option activity on the Chicago Board Options Exchange
(CBOE) saw 1,123,251 call contracts traded on Wednesday, compared
to 687,310 put contracts. The resultant single-session put/call
ratio jumped to 0.61, while the 21-day moving average remained at
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Asian stocks finished a wishy-washy session mostly higher today,
with energy- and material-related securities pacing the advancers.
In Japan, however, automakers weighed on the broader equities
market; leading the laggards was Nissan Motor, which gave up more
than 4.5% after its CEO told
that dozens of Japanese parts suppliers were negatively impacted by
the March 11 earthquake. In China, meanwhile, China Life Insurance
(LFC) dropped 1.9% after a flood of post-earnings downgrades. By
the close, the Nikkei surrendered almost 0.2%, while the Shanghai
Composite fell almost 0.1%. Elsewhere, South Korea's Kospi jumped
1.2%, with Hyundai Motor blazing the trail higher on the heels of
an upbeat earnings outlook.
European markets were also mostly higher, at last check, as
investors await the start of the European Union's (EU) two-day
summit in Brussels. Garnering notable attention in the U.K. were
Kingfisher PLC and Next PLC, which both posted
stronger-than-anticipated earnings. However, limiting stocks'
upward momentum was the Portuguese parliament's rejection of more
austerity measures, which prompted the resignation of Prime
Minister Jose Socrates. At last look, London's FTSE 100 has ticked
0.8% higher, France's CAC 40 has added 0.5%, and Germany's DAX has
advanced nearly 1.2%.
Currencies and Commodities
The U.S. dollar has lost a little ground this morning, as the
U.S. Dollar Index was seen fractionally lower at 75.79. Elsewhere,
after tagging a 29-month high on Wednesday, crude futures are
poised to continue their run into the black. In electronic trading,
the May crude futures contract has added another 0.6% to trade
around $106.41 per barrel. Finally, gold futures are also
positioned to extend their run for record highs, advancing 0.3% to
flirt with $1,442.20 an ounce.
Unusual Put and Call Activity:
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