Wall Street Unmoved Ahead of New Home Sales, Bernanke

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U.S. stock futures are trading just above breakeven this morning. Wall Street appears unwilling to make any major moves in today's session, after a week's worth of mixed economic signals from all corners of the globe. Two market movers could emerge as the day proceeds, with February's new home sales report slated for release at 10 a.m. Eastern. Stocks may also find direction when Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke takes the stage at this afternoon's Federal Reserve Conference in Washington, D.C. Against this muted backdrop, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is set to open the day 4 points higher, while the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) is looking at a fractional gain.

Dow, S&P and Nasdaq futures

In earnings news, Micron Technology (MU - 8.71) swung to a fiscal second-quarter loss of $224 million, or 23 cents per share, from its year-ago profit of $72 million, or 7 cents per share. Net sales dropped 8.4% to $2.07 billion, pressured by a decline in average selling prices. The results were mixed, as Wall Street was looking for a narrower loss of 19 cents per share on revenue of just $2.02 billion. MU is looking at a 4.8% drop right out of the gate.

Nike (NKE - 110.99) banked a fiscal third-quarter profit of $560 million, or $1.20 per share, up 7.1% from last year's earnings of $523 million, or $1.08 per share. Revenue improved 15% to $5.85 billion, but gross margin contracted to 43.8% from 45.8% as costs climbed. NKE's quarterly performance surpassed analysts' expectations, which called for a profit of $1.17 per share on $5.82 billion in revenue. NKE is up 0.1% ahead of the bell.

Finally, Darden Restaurants, Inc. (DRI - 51.83) reported a fiscal third-quarter profit of $164.1 million, or $1.25 per share, an 8.5% year-over-year rise from $151.2 million, or $1.08 per share. Same-store sales enjoyed a 4.1% jump, while total revenue improved 9.3% to $2.16 billion. The results just beat analysts' expectations for earnings of $1.24 per share on $2.14 billion in sales. The restaurateur reiterated its fiscal 2012 outlook for a 2.5% to 3% increase in same-store sales, and expects to open 85 to 90 new stores in 2012. DRI is 0.3% higher in pre-market trading.

Earnings Preview

Today's earnings docket will also feature reports from Camelot Information Systems ( CIS ) and KB Home ( KBH ). Keep your browser at SchaeffersResearch.com for more news as it breaks.

Economic Calendar

We wrap up a week chock-full of housing data data with today's new home sales report.

Market Statistics

Equity option activity on the Chicago Board Options Exchange ( CBOE ) saw 1,136,568 call contracts traded on Thursday, compared to 783,568 put contracts. The resultant single-session put/call ratio arrived at 0.69, while the 21-day moving average was 0.62.

NYSE and Nasdaq summary

Volatility indices

Overseas Trading

Stocks in Asia ended mostly lower today, following suit with Wall Street's Thursday swoon. Disappointing manufacturing reports from China and Europe pressured exporters -- particularly in Japan, where the yen surged against its major foreign counterparts. Meanwhile, a poorly received earnings report from Agricultural Bank of China weighed on financial stocks in Hong Kong and Shanghai. However, Seoul was able to eke out a win, with equities edging slightly higher after three straight losing sessions. By the close, Hong Kong's Hang Seng, China's Shanghai Composite, and Japan's Nikkei each lost 1.1%, while South Korea's Kospi crept up 0.04%.

Likewise, the major European indexes are modestly lower at midday. Traders are still on edge following Thursday's disappointing report on regional factory activity, and the prospect of a protracted economic slowdown has sparked selling in banks. Resource stocks are also among the notable laggards, tracking losses in oil and gold futures. At last check, the French CAC 40 is down 0.7%, the German DAX has slipped 0.4%, and London's FTSE 100 has shed 0.5%.

Overseas markets

Currencies and Commodities

The U.S. dollar index has pulled back this morning, with the greenback last seen 0.4% lower at $79.46. Elsewhere, crude oil is on the mend , with the front-month contract 0.4% higher at $105.73. Gold futures are on pace to end the week on a positive note, with the malleable metal up 0.4%, as well, at $1,649.30 an ounce.

Currencies and commodities

Unusual Put and Call Activity:

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Unusual options activity - puts

Unusual options activity - calls

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This article appears in: Investing , Options

Referenced Stocks: CBOE , CIS , KBH

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