Opening View: Wall Street Walking on Eggshells Ahead of July Jobs Report

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After suffering its worst single-session drop since December 2008 on Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA ) is trading cautiously lower in pre-market action. With a flurry of unimpressive economic reports still on the forefront of traders' minds, Wall Street is walking on proverbial eggshells ahead of this morning's highly anticipated nonfarm payrolls report. In just a bit, Uncle Sam will unveil the July jobs data, with economists expecting the U.S. to gain about 75,000 jobs last month. The real figures will undoubtedly set the tone of trading today, and could either stop the proverbial bleeding -- or add salt to the bulls' recent wounds.

Dow, S&P and Nasdaq futures

Procter & Gamble (PG - 59.58) said its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings rose 15% to $2.51 billion, or 84 cents per share, from $2.19 billion, or 71 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Revenue, meanwhile, rose 10% to $20.86 billion. Analysts, on average, were looking for earnings of 82 cents per share on sales of $20.57 billion. For fiscal 2012, the blue chip predicted core earnings in the range of $4.17 to $4.33 per share -- up 6% to 10% from fiscal 2011. Wall Street, on the other hand, was calling for a fiscal-year profit of $4.45 per share. At last check, PG is set to give up about 0.4% out of the gate.

Weight Watchers International (WTW - 74.45) reported second-quarter earnings of $87 million, or $1.17 per share -- up 54% from the period a year ago. Revenue increased a year-over-year 29% to $486 million. Analysts, on average, projected a quarterly profit of $1.12 per share on sales of $470 million. Looking ahead, the company upped its per-share earnings forecast to a range of $3.85 to $4.05, from its previous prediction for a per-share profit of $3.75 to $4.00. In pre-market action, WTW is flirting with a 0.7% gain.

First Solar, Inc. (FSLR - 107.94) confessed that its second-quarter profit slid 62% to $61.1 million, or 70 cents per share, from its year-ago earnings of $159 million, or $1.84 per share. Net sales for the quarter backpedaled 9.4% to $532.8 million, while gross margin contracted to 36.6% from 48.3%. The results fell way short of consensus estimates; analysts, on average, were expecting a profit of 92 cents per share on $582 million in revenue. Looking ahead, FSLR slashed its full-year earnings guidance to a range between $9.00 and $9.50 per share, down from its earlier outlook for a profit of $9.25 to $9.75 per share. Revenue is now expected to weigh in at $3.6 billion to $3.7 billion, compared to FSLR's previous forecast of $3.7 billion to $3.8 billion. The solar energy issue attributed its lackluster performance to softer average selling prices and higher R&D spending. Ahead of the bell, FSLR is poised to take a 5% plunge.

Finally, Priceline.com (PCLN - 483.34) banked an adjusted second-quarter profit of $5.49 per share, while revenue ramped up 44% to $1.1 billion. Analysts, meanwhile, were expecting earnings of just $4.91 per share on $1.08 billion in revenue. Gross margin expanded to 67.9% from 58.0%, even as PCLN boosted its online advertising expenses by 78%. For the third quarter, PCLN anticipates a profit of $9.10 to $9.30 per share, with revenue expected to rise 37% to 42%. The forecast comfortably topped Wall Street's estimates, which called for a third-quarter profit of $7.98 per share on sales growth of 38%. At last look, the shares of PCLN are set to open with a 9.1% lead.

Earnings Preview

Today's earnings docket will feature reports from Arch Chemicals ( ARJ ), Imperial Sugar ( IPSU ), Washington Post ( WPO ), and Viacom ( VIA ). Keep your browser at SchaeffersResearch.com for more news as it breaks.

Economic Calendar

Today, all eyes will be on the Labor Department's nonfarm payrolls report for July. Later in the session, the Fed weighs in on June's consumer credit trends.

Market Statistics

Equity option activity on the Chicago Board Options Exchange ( CBOE ) saw 1,469,249 call contracts traded on Thursday, compared to 1,407,781 put contracts. The resultant single-session put/call ratio docked at 0.96 -- its highest since June options expiration -- while the 21-day moving average jumped to 0.68.

NYSE and Nasdaq summary

Volatility indices

The summer 2011 issue of SENTIMENT magazine is now available here.

Overseas Trading

Thursday's Wall Street sell-off has proven contagious, with indexes around the world taking a dramatic turn for the worse today. Hong Kong-listed shares led the retreat in Asia, with the stock exchange shedding upwards of $132 billion in value on unusually heavy volume. As in the U.S., the selling spree was prompted by rising anxiety about the state of the global economy, with weak data and lingering sovereign debt issues weighing heavily on investors' minds. Energy and commodity stocks were particularly hard-hit on the prospect of softer demand. By the close, the Hang Seng tumbled 4.3%, Japan's Nikkei and South Korea's Kospi lost 3.7% apiece, and China's Shanghai Composite gave up 2.2%.

Stocks in Europe are also broadly lower at midday, as traders make for the sidelines ahead of today's key U.S. jobs report. Banking issues in Spain and Italy are bouncing back from their recent drubbing, but a disappointing quarterly report from Royal Bank of Scotland has sparked weakness in U.K.-listed financials. At last check, London's FTSE 100 was down 2.1%, the German DAX is off 1.8%, and the French CAC 40 is 0.5% lower.

Overseas markets

Currencies and Commodities

After gaining ground against most of its foreign rivals on Thursday, the greenback has pulled back in pre-market trading. At last check, the U.S. dollar index is off about 0.2 point, or 0.2%, to linger near the 74.96 level. Nevertheless, dollar-denominated crude futures have continued their retreat to multi-month lows, with the front-month contract down 76 cents, or 0.9%, to trade near $85.87 per barrel. On the other hand, gold futures have bounced back from Thursday's mass liquidation, with the malleable metal up $10.70, or 0.6%, to explore $1,669.70 an ounce.

Currencies and commodities

Unusual Put and Call Activity:

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This article appears in: Investing , Options

Referenced Stocks: ARJ , CBOE , IPSU , VIA , WPO

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