U.S. stocks are looking to shake off
their three-day drubbing
, with futures on all three major indexes pointed higher ahead of
the bell. Investors are anxiously awaiting key economic reports in
the form of weekly jobless claims, the producer price index (PPI),
and manufacturing data, all while keeping an eye on
from overseas. Ahead of this economic agenda, the Dow Jones
Industrial Average (DJIA) is looking at a 135-point jump out of the
gate, while the S&P 500 Index (SPX) is trading six points above
Novellus Systems (NVLS - 34.70) is up 24.5% in pre-market
trading, as sector peer Lam Research (LRCX - 39.48) agreed to
acquire the company for a price of $44.42 per share -- representing
a 28% premium to yesterday's close, and placing the total value of
the deal near $3.3 billion. Under the terms of the all-stock deal,
NVLS investors will receive 1.125 shares of Lam for each Novellus
share they own. The transaction is expected to close during the
second quarter of 2012, and the acquisition is projected to return
approximately $100 million per year in savings beginning in the
fourth quarter of 2013, when the merger will be complete. LRCX is
down 0.8% ahead of the bell.
On the earnings front, VeriFone Systems (PAY - 40.55) banked a
fiscal fourth-quarter profit of $198.8 million, or $1.84 per share,
more than quadrupling its year-ago earnings of $49.4 million, or 55
cents per share. On an adjusted basis, PAY earned 53 cents per
share, while net revenue improved 49% to $410.7 million. The
results were stronger than anticipated, as analysts were looking
for a profit of 51 cents per share on $408.1 million in revenue.
Looking ahead, PAY predicted a first-quarter profit of 50 cents to
52 cents per share, just shy of Wall Street's consensus estimate of
53 cents per share. PAY is down 0.5% ahead of the open.
Meanwhile, Rick's Cabaret International (RICK - 8.31) recorded a
fiscal fourth-quarter profit of $2 million, or 20 cents per share,
compared to last year's loss of $12.5 million, or $1.24 per share.
On a year-over-year basis, revenue rose to $21.5 million from $19.1
million. The results came in lower than forecast, as analysts, on
average, were calling for earnings of 24 cents per share on sales
of $22 million. For fiscal 2011, RICK reported a profit of $7.8
million, or 79 cents per share, versus a loss of $8 million, or 82
cents per share in the year prior. Revenue for the now-ended fiscal
year jumped 12.7% to $83.5 million.
Today's earnings docket will feature reports from Accenture (
), Adobe Systems (
), Discover Financial Services (
), FedEx (
), Hovnanian Enterprises (
), Research In Motion (RIMM), and Rite Aid (RAD). Keep your browser
for more news as it breaks.
A slew of economic reports are due out today, including the
producer price index (PPI), the Empire State manufacturing index,
the Philadelphia Fed index, industrial production and capacity
utilization, and weekly jobless claims. Finally, the week's slate
of economic events wraps up on Friday with the release of the
consumer price index (CPI).
Equity option activity on the Chicago Board Options Exchange
(CBOE) saw 876,281 call contracts traded on Wednesday, compared to
695,591 put contracts. The resultant single-session put/call ratio
arrived at 0.79, while the 21-day moving average was 0.71.
Asian markets ended in the red today, bogged down by lingering
concerns over the euro-zone debt crisis. In addition to rising
Italian bond yields, investors were rattled after Fitch downgraded
five major European banks, including France's Credit Agricole, due
to "stronger headwinds facing the banking industry as a whole."
Meanwhile, a little closer to home, HSBC's flash purchasing
managers index for China arrived at 49 in December, revealing an
ongoing contraction in the country's manufacturing sector. Against
this gloomy backdrop, China's Shanghai Composite and South Korea's
Kospi both fell 2.1%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 1.8%, and Japan's
Nikkei gave up 1.7%.
Conversely, European stocks are pointed higher at midday, with
traders more or less shrugging off the Fitch downgrades. Instead,
the bulls are cheering a lucrative unit sale for British insurance
issue Old Mutual, as well as rumors of potential government aid for
Germany's Commerzbank. However, regional benchmarks pulled back
from their intraday highs after Markit's December PMI reports for
both Germany and the broader euro zone indicated continued
contraction in manufacturing activity. At last check, London's FTSE
100 and the French CAC 40 are 0.8% higher, and Germany's DAX has
Currencies and Commodities
The greenback is pointed lower this morning, threatening to
break a three-day advance, with the U.S. dollar index down 0.3%.
Crude oil, meanwhile, is looking to rebound from yesterday's drop,
with the front-month contract last seen 0.6% higher at $95.73 per
barrel. Gold futures are pointed higher, as well, with the
malleable metal up 0.5% to trade at $1,594.10 an ounce.
Unusual Put and Call Activity:
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