Stocks Pointed Higher with Retail Sales, Fed in Focus


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Despite yesterday's concerns over China's wider-than-expected trade gap , the bulls eventually emerged, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) and S&P 500 Index (SPX) managing to eke out minor gains . Buyers are standing pat this morning, with traders optimistically anticipating domestic economic data -- in the form of retail sales and the latest policy decision from the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). Economists are predicting retail sales to rise by 1.2%, with no major announcements expected from the Fed. Against this backdrop, futures on all three major market indexes are pointed north of breakeven.

Dow, S&P and Nasdaq futures

In equities news, Yahoo Inc. (YHOO - 14.49) late Monday said that it is suing Facebook Inc. for infringement of 10 patents relating to YHOO's advertising, privacy, and social networking technology. The lawsuit comes amid Facebook's preparations for its initial public offering (IPO), slated for later this year. YHOO is on pace to begin the day with a 0.4% gain.

In earnings news, Clean Energy Fuels Corp. (CLNE - 20.55) swallowed a fourth-quarter loss of $20.9 million, or 29 cents per share, versus last year's profit of $13.8 million, or 18 cents per share. Excluding items, the loss narrowed to 21 cents per share, while revenue rose a slight 4% to $86.2 million. The results were mixed, with analysts calling for a slimmer adjusted loss of 14 cents per share on $73.5 million in sales. CLNE is set to drop 0.8% right out of the gate.

Urban Outfitters (URBN - 29.51) reported a fourth-quarter profit of $39.3 million, or 27 cents per share, down 48% from $75.2 million, or 45 cents per share, in the year-ago period. The retailer attributed the decline to deep discounts on its merchandise during the quarter -- which helped to reduce inventory, but negatively impacted margins. Meanwhile, net revenue rose by 9.3% to $730.6 million, despite a 1% drop in same-store sales. The results disappointed analysts, who were expecting a profit of 29 cents per share on revenue of $740 million. URBN is 5.6% lower in pre-market trading.

Finally, Majesco Entertainment (COOL - 2.97) said its fiscal first-quarter earnings improved 14% to $7.7 million, or 19 cents per share, while revenue rose 37% to $66.2 million. On an adjusted basis, COOL earned 18 cents per share. Analysts, on average, were looking for the video game publisher to earn 20 cents per share on $54.9 million in revenue. For the full year, COOL expects to bank an adjusted profit of 25 to 35 cents per share, with revenue ranging between $130 million and $140 million. By contrast, Wall Street is anticipating fiscal 2012 earnings of 35 cents per share on $136.5 million in revenue. COOL has swallowed a loss of 12.5% ahead of the bell.

Earnings Preview

Today's earnings docket will also feature reports from Broadwind Energy ( BWEN ), Ebix ( EBIX ), Anacor Pharmaceuticals ( ANAC ), Francesca's ( FRAN ), Infinity Pharmaceuticals ( INFI ), Medifast (MED), Oxigene (OXGN), Pacific Sunwear (PSUN), Penson Worldwide (PNSN), and Xerium Technologies (XRM). Keep your browser at for more news as it breaks.

Economic Calendar

Today's economic calendar features the latest data on retail sales and business inventories, but the day's major news will likely be the FOMC's policy decision, due out at 2:15 p.m. Eastern. On Wednesday, the MBA mortgage index will hit the Street, along with import and export prices, and the regularly scheduled crude inventories report. Thursday's round-up will include weekly jobless claims, the Empire State manufacturing index, the Philadelphia Fed's manufacturing index, and the producer price index (PPI). The week wraps up on Friday 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 851,296 call contracts traded on Monday, compared to 598,695 put contracts. The resultant single-session put/call ratio arrived at 0.70, while the 21-day moving average was 0.65.

NYSE and Nasdaq summary

Volatility indices

Overseas Trading

Stocks in Asia ended on a positive note, with traders looking ahead to today's meeting of the FOMC. However, the gains in Tokyo were relatively muted, as the Bank of Japan opted to stand pat on monetary policy after its latest two-day meeting. This news prompted a rebound in the yen, which weighed on exporters. By the close, Japan's Nikkei edged up 0.09%, China's Shanghai Composite added 0.9%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 1%, and South Korea's Kospi climbed 1.1%.

The major European benchmarks are solidly higher at midday, thanks to upbeat economic data from Germany. The country's ZEW sentiment index surged to a stronger-than-forecast 22.3 in March, touching its highest point in nearly two years. Plus, euro-zone finance ministers have now approved a second tranche of bailout aid for Greece, relieving some debt-related anxiety. At last look, the French CAC 40 and German DAX have advanced roughly 1% apiece, and London's FTSE 100 is 0.8% higher.

Overseas markets

Currencies and Commodities

The greenback continues to flex its muscle , with the U.S. dollar index up 0.2% at last check to trade at $80.03. Crude oil is headed north, as well, with the front-month contract 0.4% higher at $107.30 per barrel. Conversely, gold futures are pointed lower, with the malleable metal down 0.3% at $1,695.40 an ounce.

Currencies and commodities

Unusual Put and Call Activity:

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Unusual options activity - puts

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This article appears in: Investing , Options
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