Stocks Pointed Higher Ahead of Jobs Data; Apple in Focus


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Futures on all three major market indexes are pointed modestly higher today, as traders shrug off yesterday's 200-point Dow drubbing . Wall Street is keeping its attention close to home, as jobs data begins to trickle in ahead of Friday's delayed nonfarm payrolls report. On the corporate front, Apple (AAPL ) is expected to launch its newest iteration of the iPad at an event today, prompting curiosity as to what the tech titan may have in store for us next. Despite the bullish anticipation on the home front, traders are still keeping one eye trained on Greece , as the fiscally strapped nation's bond swap is slated to wrap up on Thursday. However, Tuesday's skepticism has been tempered, as a number of large banks have agreed to participate in the write-downs. With a lot of information to digest in today's session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is set to tack on 43 points, while the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) is up 4 points.

Dow, S&P and Nasdaq futures

In earnings news, Pandora Media (P - 14.27) deepened its fiscal fourth-quarter loss to $8.2 million, wider than its deficit of $1.4 million in the year ago-period. On an earnings-per-share basis, however, P's loss came in at 5 cents, compared to a loss of 31 cents in the previous year. Excluding items, the Internet radio issue's loss arrived at 3 cents per share. Meanwhile, revenue jumped by 70.8% to $81.3 million, boosted by a 74% increase in advertising sales. Analysts, on average, were expecting a loss of 2 cents per share on revenue of $83.1 million. Looking ahead, the company is forecasting an adjusted first-quarter loss of 18 cents to 21 cents per share on sales between $72 million and $75 million. Conversely, Wall Street is predicting a loss of just 2 cents per share on revenue of $86.6 million. P is staring at a 22% drop right out of the gate.

Citing a $10-million tax refund, Analogic Corporation (ALOG - 54.59) said its fiscal second-quarter profit soared to $19.6 million, or $1.59 per share, from last year's profit of $5.3 million, or 42 cents per share. Excluding items, earnings arrived at $1.02 per share, while revenue grew 7.8% to $126.4 million. The results were mixed, with analysts calling for a per-share profit of 57 cents on $127 million in sales. ALOG also announced its board approved a quarterly cash dividend of 10 cents per share, payable on March 29.

Finally, Ciena Corp. (CIEN - 13.44) trimmed its fiscal first-quarter loss to $47.7 million, or 49 cents per share, from last year's deficit of $79.1 million, or 84 cents per share. Excluding items, CIEN lost 17 cents per share, as revenue fell 3.8% to $416.7 million. Analysts were looking for a loss of just 5 cents per share on $417.2 million in revenue. However, the networking specialist saw its gross margin expand to 40.3% from 38.9% during the quarter, and CIEN offered an upbeat outlook for the remainder of 2012. "Our first-quarter revenue does not reflect the underlying strength of the business and ongoing customer demand," said President and CEO Gary Smith. "We expect sequential revenue growth in the fiscal second quarter, and we anticipate that our operating results for the second half of fiscal 2012 will be stronger than the first half." CIEN is up 4.2% in pre-market trading.

Earnings Preview

Today's earnings docket will also feature reports from American Eagle Outfitters ( AEO ), Bon-Ton Stores ( BONT ), Canadian Solar ( CSIQ ), Children's Place ( PLCE ), Coldwater Creek ( CWTR ), Express (EXPR), Flotek Industries (FTK), Fresh Market (TFM), Geron (GERN), H&R Block (HRB), Hot Topic (HOTT), Hovnanian Enterprises (HOV), Korn/Ferry International (KFY), Men's Wearhouse (MW), Sequenom (SQNM), and Sigma Designs (SIGM). Keep your browser at for more news as it breaks.

Economic Calendar

Today's jam-packed docket brings us weekly crude inventories, ADP's private-sector payrolls figure for February, fourth-quarter productivity, and the Federal Reserve's consumer credit report. On Thursday, we'll hear the regularly scheduled update on initial unemployment claims. We'll wrap up the week on a busy note, with the delayed release of the Labor Department's nonfarm payrolls report for February, as well as the latest unemployment rate, the trade deficit, and wholesale inventories.

Market Statistics

Equity option activity on the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) saw 1,152,670 call contracts traded on Tuesday, compared to 907,120 put contracts. The resultant single-session put/call ratio arrived at 0.80, while the 21-day moving average was 0.63.

NYSE and Nasdaq summary

Volatility indices

Overseas Trading

Asian markets remained stuck in the red again today, tracking Tuesday's jarring losses on Wall Street. Revived worries about the health of the global economy applied pressure to exporters, with Sony shares sliding in Tokyo, and Hyundai among the notable laggards in Seoul. Meanwhile, China Life Insurance sparked sector-wide weakness after the company warned of worse-than-expected fiscal 2011 earnings. By the close, South Korea's Kospi and Hong Kong's Hang Seng each lost 0.9%, China's Shanghai Composite gave back 0.7%, and Japan's Nikkei dipped 0.6%.

On the other hand, European indexes are edging higher at midday. Banking stocks have attracted some buyers in the wake of Tuesday's sell-off, but the bulls are playing it relatively safe ahead of Thursday's Greek debt swap. Confirmed participants in the voluntary restructuring now include such well-known names as Societe Generale, UniCredit, HSBC, and Deutsche Bank, but Greece will need to drum up even more bondholder support to dodge a disorderly default. At last check, the French CAC 40 is up 0.6%, London's FTSE 100 has added 0.4%, and the German DAX is 0.1% higher.

Overseas markets

Currencies and Commodities

The U.S. dollar index has pulled back this morning, with the greenback down 0.2% at $79.75. Crude futures, meanwhile, are in rebound mode , as economic fears are seemingly subsiding. At last check, the front-month contract is up 0.5% at $105.23 per barrel. Gold futures are pointed north, as well, with the malleable metal 0.5% higher at $1,681.00 an ounce.

Currencies and commodities

Unusual Put and Call Activity:

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This article appears in: Investing Options
Referenced Stocks: AEO , BONT , CSIQ , CWTR , PLCE

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