Stock Futures Headed Cautiously Higher Ahead of Jobless Claims

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The major market indexes have rebounded , and are headed modestly higher this morning, as traders turn their attention to the domestic economic reports that are finally begin to roll in. The day's docket includes such notables as weekly jobless claims, crude oil inventories, and the FHFA home price index. Due to this week's mixed bag of global economic data , Wall Street is taking a conservative approach ahead of the bell, with futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) and the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) pointed slightly north of breakeven.

Dow, S&P and Nasdaq futures

In equities news, VIVUS, Inc. (VVUS - 10.55) is set to soar after the biopharma concern's experimental weight-loss drug, Qnexa, was given a nod by a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel on Wednesday. The recommendation could end a more-than-decade long dry spell of approval from the FDA for a prescription drug used to tackle obesity. VVUS is up more than 106% in pre-market trading.

Due to weakening demand, as well as a shortage of hard disk drives, Hewlett-Packard Company (HPQ - 28.94) recorded a fiscal first-quarter profit of $1.47 billion, or 73 cents per share, a 44% year-over-year decline from $2.61 billion, or $1.17 per share. Excluding items, earnings dropped to 92 cents per share, while revenue fell 7% to land at $30.04 billion. The results were mixed, with analysts calling for adjusted earnings of 87 cents per share on $30.71 billion in sales. Going forward, HPQ provided a dismal outlook for the current quarter, projecting adjusted earnings of 88 cents to 91 cents per share, below Wall Street's forecast of 95 cents per share. HPQ is down 3.8% ahead of the bell.

Elsewhere, Questcor Pharmaceuticals (QCOR - 34.74) banked a fourth-quarter profit of $31.6 million, or 48 cents per share, more than quadrupling its year-ago earnings of $6.4 million, or 10 cents per share. Excluding items, earnings came in at 47 cents per share, compared to 12 cents per share in the previous year. Meanwhile, revenue rose by 157.7% to $75.5 million. The results topped analysts' expectations for an adjusted profit of 42 cents per share on sales of $72.8 million. QCOR is set to start the session with a 5.4% lead.

Finally, Target (TGT - 52.97) said its fourth-quarter earnings fell 5.2% to $981 million, or $1.45 per share, from last year's profit of $1.04 billion. On an adjusted basis, TGT earned $1.49 per share. Revenue edged up 3% to $21.29 billion, supported by a 2.2% rise in same-store sales. The quarterly results bested analysts' expectations, with the consensus calling for a profit of $1.40 per share on $21.21 billion in revenue. For the fiscal year ahead, TGT anticipates earnings of $4.55 to $4.75 per share, outpacing the average analyst estimate of $4.27 per share. TGT was last seen fractionally lower.

Earnings Preview

Today's earnings docket will also feature reports from Active Network ( ACTV ), American International Group ( AIG ), Autodesk ( ADSK ), Century Aluminum ( CENX ), Coeur d'Alene Mines ( CDE ), Deckers Outdoor (DECK), Dish Network (DISH), Foster Wheeler (FWLT), The Gap (GPS), Hormel Foods (HRL), InterDigital (IDCC), Kohl's (KSS), Marvell Technology Group (MRVL), MedAssets (MDAS), Molycorp (MCP), OfficeMax (OMX), OmniVision Technologies (OVTI), Salesforce.com (CRM), TiVo (TIVO), Trina Solar (TSL), and WebMD Health Corp. (WBMD). Keep your browser at SchaeffersResearch.com for more news as it breaks.

Economic Calendar

We'll hear the usual report on weekly jobless claims today, along with the holiday-delayed update on domestic crude inventories. Also on tap is the FHFA housing price index. The week wraps up on Friday with the final Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for February, as well as new home sales data.

Market Statistics

Equity option activity on the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) saw 1,151,681 call contracts traded on Wednesday, compared to 732,163 put contracts. The resultant single-session put/call ratio arrived at 0.64, while the 21-day moving average was 0.61.

NYSE and Nasdaq summary

Volatility indices

Overseas Trading

Asian markets ended mixed today, as traders responded to Wednesday's downbeat economic data out of the euro zone. In China, investors priced in some disappointment after Shanghai's housing bureau batted down speculation that it would offer concessions to home buyers. However, an uptick in gold futures supported mining issues, while energy stocks gained ground amid rising crude prices. Meanwhile, in Tokyo, exporters continued to capitalize on a softer yen, but Mazda sat out the advance after unveiling a larger-than-forecast share sale. By the close, Japan's Nikkei added 0.4%, China's Shanghai Composite climbed 0.3%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.8%, and South Korea's Kospi gave up 1%.

European equities are wobbling around breakeven at midday, after the European Commission (EC) downwardly revised its growth outlook for 2012. The group now expects a modest recession this year, with the euro-zone economy projected to contract 0.3% -- down from the EC's earlier view for 0.5% growth. Disappointing bank earnings are also dragging on sentiment, following poorly received quarterly reports from the likes of Commerzbank and Credit Agricole. At last look, the German DAX is down 0.4%, the French CAC 40 is off 0.05%, and London's FTSE 100 has tacked on 0.2%.

Overseas markets

Currencies and Commodities

The U.S. dollar index is trading lower ahead of the bell, with the greenback last seen 0.3% lower at $78.98. Crude oil, meanwhile, is hoping to extend its winning streak to a sixth straight session , with the front-month contract up nearly 0.5% at $106.33 per barrel. Gold futures continue their trek northward, as well, with the malleable metal 0.4% higher at $1,778.80 an ounce.

Currencies and commodities

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This article appears in: Investing , Options

Referenced Stocks: ACTV , ADSK , AIG , CDE , CENX

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