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Opening View: Futures Modestly Lower, Despite Record ECB Lending; ORCL in Focus

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U.S. stocks are modestly lower ahead of the bell, despite data showing record lending by the European Central Bank (ECB). Earlier, futures were pointed higher on news that the ECB loaned 489 billion euros to 523 banks for an average of three years, marking the central bank's heftiest infusion of credit in the history of the euro zone. However, a lackluster earnings showing from tech titan Oracle ( ORCL ) is helping to rain on the bulls' parade, with the major market indexes set to pare a portion of yesterday's advance .

On the earnings front, Oracle (ORCL - 29.17) reported a fiscal second-quarter profit of $2.19 billion, or 43 cents per share, up from $1.87 billion, or 37 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Excluding items, earnings arrived at 54 cents per share, compared to 51 cents per share in the previous year. Meanwhile, revenue rose 2.4% to $8.8 billion. Analysts, on average, were expecting an adjusted profit of 57 cents per share on revenue of $9.23 billion. ORCL also said its board approved the expansion of its stock repurchase program by an additional $5 billion. In pre-market trading, ORCL is bracing for a 10% drop.

After the close last night, Cintas (CTAS - 31.28) unveiled fiscal second-quarter earnings of $74.4 million, or 57 cents per share, up 33% from $55.9 million, or 38 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Net revenue, meanwhile, increased 8.8% to $1.02 billion. The Cincinnati-based company's results were stronger than expected, as Wall Street was calling for a profit of 48 cents per share on $1 billion in revenue. For fiscal 2012, CTAS upped its profit predictions, and now expects earnings of $2.16 to $2.20 per share on revenue of $4.08 billion to $4.13 billion. Previously, CTAS forecast fiscal-year earnings of $1.97 to $2.05 per share on sales of $4 billion to $4.1 billion. Analysts are looking for a slimmer profit of $2.03 per share on $4.08 billion in revenue. At last look, CTAS is headed 7.1% higher.

Finally, Nike, Inc. (NKE - 93.63) reported a fiscal second-quarter profit of $469 million, or $1 per share, a 2.6% rise from last year's profit of $457 million, or 94 cents per share. Revenue was also on the rise, jumping 18% to $5.73 billion. The results came in better than expected, as analysts, on average, were forecasting earnings of 97 cents per share on revenue of $5.63 billion. Gross margin, however, contracted 2.6% to 42.7%, as NKE experienced higher costs for transportation, labor and materials. Ahead of the bell, NKE is set to open with a 2% lead.

Earnings Preview

Today's earnings docket will feature reports from CarMax ( KMX ), Walgreen ( WAG ), Bed Bath & Beyond ( BBBY ), Finish Line ( FINL ), Micron Technology (MU), Shaw Group (SHAW), Lindsay Corp. (LNN), and Tibco Software (TIBX). Keep your browser at SchaeffersResearch.com for more news as it breaks.

Economic Calendar

November's existing home sales data hits the Street today, along with the regularly scheduled crude inventories report. On Thursday, the economic calendar heats up with the release of the weekly jobless figures, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index, the Conference Board's index of leading economic indicators, and the government's latest estimate on third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP). Finally, we head into the long holiday weekend with data on durable goods, personal income and spending, and new home sales for November.

Market Statistics

Equity option activity on the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) saw 1,002,649 call contracts traded on Tuesday, compared to 527,694 put contracts. The resultant single-session put/call ratio arrived at 0.53, while the 21-day moving average was 0.70.

Overseas Trading

Asian markets ended mostly higher today, with exporters and energy stocks catching a boost from well-received economic data out of the U.S. and Europe. However, Shanghai-listed securities once again sat out the rally, with Ping An Insurance pacing the laggards on news of a convertible bond sale. Elsewhere, traders in Tokyo shrugged off a downwardly revised economic outlook from the Bank of Japan, which opted to hold steady on policy. By the close, China's Shanghai Composite fell 1.1%, Japan's Nikkei added 1.5%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 1.9%, and South Korea's Kospi rose 3.1%.

The major European indexes are trading just south of breakeven at midday. Traders are responding to reports that the ECB will loan a larger-than-anticipated amount of cash to 523 banks as part of a three-year funding operation. Stocks initially surged higher on the news, but have since retreated into the red. At last look, London's FTSE 100 and the German DAX are both off 0.5%, and the French CAC 40 is 0.7% lower.

Currencies and Commodities

The greenback is lower again this morning, with the U.S. dollar index down 0.2%. Crude oil, meanwhile, has continued its rebound, with the front-month contract last seen 0.5% higher at $97.69 per barrel. Likewise, gold futures have extended their upward momentum, with the malleable metal up 0.6% to trade at $1,626.80 an ounce.

Unusual Put and Call Activity:

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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