Stocks Pointed Higher Ahead of Consumer Sentiment Data

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Following a seventh-straight win by the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), and the S&P 500 Index (SPX) closing at its highest level since 2008, futures on all three major market indexes are on track to continue Thursday's bullish momentum. The steady stream of economic reports -- in the form of consumer sentiment and inflation data -- set to hit the Street is further driving the buying mood, with a week's worth of positive economic developments already in the books. Against this optimistic outlook, the DJIA is looking at a 68-point jump, while the broader SPX was last seen 5 points north of breakeven.

Dow, S&P and Nasdaq futures

In earnings news, New York & Company, Inc. (NWY - 3.49) swung to a fourth-quarter loss of $10.9 million, or 18 cents per share, from its year-ago profit of $15 million, or 25 cents per share, due in part to a $2.2-million impairment charge. Same-store sales saw a 6.3% decline, while overall revenue backpedaled 10% to $271.8 million. The results came in below analysts' expectations for a per-share loss of 16 cents on $275.0 million in sales.

Dole Food (DOLE - 9.97) swallowed a fourth-quarter loss of $2 million, or 2 cents per share -- much improved from its year-ago deficit of $31 million, or 35 cents per share. Revenue for the period fell 1.4% to $1.54 billion, but DOLE's cost-cutting efforts helped the produce giant narrow its quarterly loss. The bottom-line results were better than expected, as analysts were bracing for a steeper loss of 12 cents per share. However, Wall Street was looking for a slightly healthier $1.57 billion in revenue.

Finally, ReneSola Ltd. (SOL - 2.46) fell to a fourth-quarter loss of $36.7 million, or 21 cents per share, compared to last year's profit of $61 million, or 34 cents per share, as weakening demand and cost concerns continued to weigh on the bottom line. Shipments declined 2.7% to 339.9 megawatts ( MW ), while total revenue dropped 51% to $187.7 million. The results beat analysts' expectations for a wider loss of 24 cents per share on $146.7 million in sales. For the current quarter, SOL is calling for revenue to land between $180 million and $190 million, well above the Street's forecast for revenue of $156 million. SOL is trading 16% higher ahead of the bell.

Earnings Preview

Today's earnings docket will also a feature report from China Sunergy ( CSUN ). Keep your browser at SchaeffersResearch.com for more news as it breaks.

Economic Calendar

The week wraps up with the consumer price index ( CPI ), industrial production and capacity utilization, and the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for mid-March.

Market Statistics

Equity option activity on the Chicago Board Options Exchange ( CBOE ) saw 1,706,118 call contracts traded on Thursday, compared to 892,148 put contracts. The resultant single-session put/call ratio arrived at 0.52, while the 21-day moving average was 0.64.

NYSE and Nasdaq summary

Volatility indices

Overseas Trading

Stocks in Asia ended mixed today, with a downturn in crude prices weighing on the energy sector. In Tokyo, exporters struggled as the yen pared some of its recent losses versus the U.S. dollar, but strength in tech helped push the market to a positive finish. Over in China, equities bounced back from steep declines swallowed earlier in the week, even as property stocks remain a pocket of weakness. By the close, South Korea's Kospi slipped 0.5%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.2%, Japan's Nikkei edged up 0.06%, and China's Shanghai Composite gained 1.3%.

European equities are pointed modestly higher at midday, led by banks. UBS prompted a rally in Royal Bank of Scotland after upgrading the stock to "buy," and the brokerage firm further stoked the positive momentum by hiking its 2012 gross domestic product ( GDP ) estimates for both the U.K. and the euro zone. At last check, the French CAC 40 is up 0.3%, London's FTSE 100 has added 0.4%, and the German DAX has climbed 0.6%.

Overseas markets

Currencies and Commodities

The greenback is on the rebound this morning, with the U.S. dollar index up 0.2% at $80.29. Crude oil is headed north, as well, with the front-month contract last seen 0.3% higher at $105.96 per barrel. Thanks to the strengthening dollar, gold futures have pulled back, with the malleable metal 0.7% lower at $1,648 an ounce.

Currencies and commodities

Unusual Put and Call Activity:

For an explanation of how to use this information, check out our Education Center topics on Option Volume and Open Interest Configurations .

Unusual options activity - puts

Unusual options activity - calls

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This article appears in: Investing , Options

Referenced Stocks: CBOE , CPI , CSUN , GDP , MW

Schaeffer's Investment Research

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