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.
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%.
There are no other earnings reports of note today. Keep your
for more news as it breaks.
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).
Equity option activity on the Chicago Board Options Exchange (
) 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.
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.
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
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.
Unusual Put and Call Activity:
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