Day Ahead: Fed Flurry

 | Mar 21, 2014 | 8:35 AM EDT
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A flurry of Fed speakers and potential market volatility are on tap for Friday's session, promising to keep market watchers alert as a few remaining high-profile earnings reports continue to trickle in.

In the meantime, Wall Street appeared ready to extend Thursday's gains: U.S. equities futures were recently on the rise, mirroring strength on European exchanges. Overnight, Asian markets were also higher, though muted by a holiday break for Japan's Nikkei 225 Index.

Fed-heads will be listening intently today for any further insight into what turned out to be a jam-packed Federal Open Market Committee meeting earlier this week. The talking Fed officials include St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, Minneapolis Fed chief Narayana Kocherlakota and Fed Governor Jeremy Stein.

Among companies, Tiffany (TIF) fell short of quarterly earnings estimates by a nickel per share and offered a disappointing fiscal 2015 outlook this morning, taking the sparkle out of the high-end jeweler's shares in premarket trading. And Darden Restaurants (DRI) met Wall Street's lowered expectations, serving up in-line quarterly profit and sales results. The operator of the Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse chains confirmed its intent to spin off its struggling Red Lobster brand.

Late Thursday, Action Alerts PLUS holding Nike (NKE) crossed the quarterly tape with top- and bottom-line wins, but shares were tripped up by warnings that currency-exchange rates and weak China sales will weigh on results in the current quarter and into the next fiscal year.

Also, keep an eye on shares of Zions Bancorp (ZION) after the opening bell. As revealed late Thursday, it was the only one of 30 big banks to fail the Federal Reserve's latest stress test, missing the minimum 5% requirement for top-tier capital.

Finally, it's quadruple-witching options-expiration day, so equities markets may be in for a bit of a ride as market players jockey to square away positions.

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