Opening View: U.S. Stocks Pointed South Ahead of Key Domestic Data

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U.S. stock futures are trading modestly lower today, as Wall Street anticipates a slew of economic data on the homefront. With the newly dubbed shopping holiday "Mega Monday" in full swing yesterday, investors are hoping the consumer confidence survey, slated for release at 10:00 a.m., continues to show growth in the retail sector. Ahead of this data, and combined with a seasonally light volume session , the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is trading 25 points lower ahead of the bell, while the S&P 500 Index (SPX) is set to shed 2 points.

Dow, S&P and Nasdaq futures

In equities news, citing slower sales and higher margins, Sears Holding Corporation (SHLD - 45.85) early this morning announced plans to close between 100 and 120 of its Sears and Kmart stores, or 5% of the retail outlets. The closures are expected to eventually garner roughly $140 million to $170 million in cash due to inventory and real estate liquidation. In the fourth quarter, SHLD will take charges of $1.6 billion to $2.4 billion in deferred tax and impairment items. SHLD is set to open 9.5% lower.

On the earnings front, Cal-Maine Foods, Inc. (CALM - 34.25) reported a fiscal second-quarter profit of $23.3 million, or 97 cents per share, a 53% improvement over last year's profit of $15.2 million, or 64 cents per share. Revenue was also on the rise, jumping 24% to $290.4 million. The bottom-line results came in better than expected, as analysts, on average, were forecasting a profit of 89 cents per share. Thanks to the egg producer's year-over-year earnings growth, CALM's quarterly dividend payment to shareholders increased 4.4 cents to 32.5 cents per share. In pre-market trading, CALM is up 7.7%.

Earnings Preview

There are no other earnings reports of note today. Keep your browser at SchaeffersResearch.com for more news as it breaks.

Economic Calendar

The economic calendar kicks off today with the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index and the Conference Board's consumer confidence report. The MBA mortgage index is slated to hit the Street on Wednesday. Weekly jobless claims are due out on Thursday, and pending home sales are also on the day's docket. Plus, traders will receive the government's update on petroleum supplies one session later than usual, due to Monday's holiday. The abbreviated week wraps up on Friday with the release of the Chicago purchasing managers index (PMI).

Market Statistics

Equity option activity on the Chicago Board Options Exchange ( CBOE ) saw 541,839 call contracts traded on Friday, compared to 348,999 put contracts. The resultant single-session put/call ratio arrived at 0.64, while the 21-day moving average was 0.70.

NYSE and Nasdaq summary

Volatility indices

Overseas Trading

Asian markets ended lower today, with stocks sliding amid relatively thin volume. In Japan, department store operator Takashimaya was among the notable laggards, after the retailer trimmed its full-year earnings guidance. Meanwhile, Shanghai-listed equities slumped to a 33-month nadir, after the People's Bank of China pegged its daily reference exchange rate for the yuan at a lower-than-expected 6.3152 versus the U.S. dollar. By the close, China's Shanghai Composite fell 1.1%, South Korea's Kospi lost 0.8%, and Japan's Nikkei gave up 0.5%. Markets in Hong Kong were closed for holiday.

Elsewhere, the major European benchmarks are slightly higher at midday. After an extended holiday weekend, traders are taking a glass-half-full approach ahead of today's economic data from the U.S., which includes home price data and the Conference Board's consumer confidence index. However, the bulls are taking a relatively conservative approach, with traditionally defensive utilities and pharmaceutical issues leading the advance. At last check, the French CAC 40 and German DAX are both 0.2% higher, while traders in London remain on holiday.

Overseas markets

Currencies and Commodities

The U.S. dollar index is pointed south ahead of the bell, with the greenback last seen down 0.2%. Crude oil, however, is looking to extend its winning streak to a sixth straight session, with the front-month contract trading 0.2% higher at $99.85 per barrel. Gold futures are looking to take the biggest hit, with the malleable metal set to drop 0.5% to $1,597.40 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: CBOE , SHLD

Schaeffer's Investment Research

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