The Day Ahead: Plenty of Reports on Tap

 | Feb 16, 2012 | 8:30 AM EST
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In the Headlines

U.S. indices were poised to begin Thursday's session lower, following the heavy-volume downside reversal on Wednesday.

Continued worries that Greece's bailout deal would fall through contributed to the futures decline. European Union officials have said they are confident a Greek deal would be in place by Monday, but markets are expressing their doubts.

Also weighing on stocks was a Moody's warning that more than 100 global financials may be downgraded.

As that development would suggest, the sector was a big decliner in European trade. Major indices throughout the region were trading lower before Wall Street opened on Thursday.

The euro plunged vs. the greenback.

In Asia, the specter of Greek debt default also sent traders to the "sell" button. Most indices finished with modest losses.

Economic Docket

Stateside, today's economic reports include the always-eagerly-anticipated weekly unemployment data from the Labor Department. Economists anticipate an increase in new jobless claims, to 365,000 from last week's 358,000 in the prior week. This projected level is well below the key 400,000 threshold that often defines a strengthening labor market. These numbers are due out at 8:30 a.m. EST.

Also at 8:30 a.m. are January housing starts and building permits from the Commerce Department. Analysts are anticipating housing starts rising by 677,000 units, with building permits gaining to 680,000.

That 8:30 a.m. time slot will be busy, with the Labor Department releasing its January Producer Price Index. Economists have pegged the price rise at 0.4%, following a decline of 0.1% in December. Core prices, which strip out more volatile elements, are seen rising by 0.2%.

The Philadelphia Fed's manufacturing survey comes along at 10. Activity in the region is seen rising to a level of 10 in February, following last month's reading of 7.3.

Commodities Corner

Gold shed $9.50 per ounce early Thursday, to $1,718.60.

West Texas Intermediate crude fell $0.65 per barrel, to $101.15.

Earnings News

Thursday is a busy day for earnings news. Highlights include a fourth-quarter report from General Motors (GM). The auto maker earned $0.39 per share, below expectations of $0.41. Revenue was $38 billion, slightly lower than calls for $38.21 billion. On the conference call, analysts will be listening for the company's plans to stabilize its European business. GM was trading higher following the earnings news. The stock gained $0.72, or 2.89%, to $25.65.

From the energy sector, oil and gas explorer and producer Apache (APA) is expected to earn $2.87 per share in the fourth quarter, on revenue of $4.29 billion. Going into Thursday's session, shares were attempting to rally out of a steep consolidation that began in May.

Later today is a fourth-quarter report from Chinese Internet search engine Baidu (BIDU), which is expected to post earnings per share (EPS) of $0.89 on revenue of $708.62 million. The company recently enhanced its security features for site users. Baidu shares edged fractionally higher before Thursday's open, to $138.37.

Market Movers

A premarket downside mover was chipmaker Nvidia (NVDA), tumbling $0.92, 5.69%, to $15.25. Late Wednesday the company slashed the sales outlook for its Tegra 3 mobile processors, and said production delays were putting a dent in sales of professional graphics cards.

Analyst Actions

Deere (DE), which reported earnings earlier this week, was downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo. The analyst cited cash flow concerns from the row crop segment of Deere's business.

Amylin Pharmaceuticals (AMLN), whose shares have bolted more than 23% this month, was reinstated at Credit Suisse with a rating of Outperform.



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