In the Headlines
Wall Street trading volume is a question mark Monday, as traders who live outside New York City deal with power outages and flooding after Irene passed through. Exchanges and most major financial firms are open for business today, but it's possible that hurricane hangover will result in muted volume.
U.S. stock futures pointed to a higher open, on the heels of upside trade on global markets. In Asia, most indices finished Monday with solid gains. Japan's ruling party representatives chose the nation's finance minister, Yoshihiko Noda, as the new prime minister. He has said he wants to raise taxes to deal with Japan's debt problems.
Elsewhere in the region, Shanghai stocks ended lower on reports that China's banks would be required to include margin deposits in their reserve total. That would decrease the cash available to the banks.
In Europe, indices traded higher, aided by reports that two major Greek banks are set to merge. Analysts say European investors were also cheered by Wall Street's higher finish Friday, following Fed Chief Ben Bernanke's remarks that the central bank would revisit monetary policy options next month.
Financials and energy stocks were among Europe's gainers before Wall Street's open. There are no significant earnings reports today from widely held names.
Some U.S. econ reports have potential to put a damper on this morning's investor sentiment. At 8:30 a.m. EDT, the Commerce Department releases its personal income and spending data for July. Income is seen rising 0.3% in June, with spending up 0.5%.
At 10 a.m., the National Association of Realtors releases its pending home sales index for July. Economists expect a decline of 1% after a gain in June.
Half an hour later is the Dallas Fed Index for July. This may get more attention than it's received in the past, following disappointing results from the Philly Fed, which helped send stocks lower on Aug. 18. Many analysts expect the Dallas manufacturing data to also show a slowdown.
Turning to commodities prices this morning, West Texas Intermediate crude rose $0.49 to $85.86 per barrel.
Gold maintained its lofty perch above the $1,800 level, gaining $21.60 early Monday, to $1,818.90 per ounce.
Early price movers included DJIA component General Electric (GE), which advanced $0.19, 1.22%, to $15.73. The company said its East Coast facilities, including its Connecticut headquarters, would be open for business today.
Bank of America (BAC) continued running higher ahead of the bell. The stock advanced 11.3% last week in heavy volume as Warren Buffett bought in. This morning, shares climbed $0.23, 2.96%, to $7.99.
Fellow benchmark index component National Oilwell Varco (NOV) rose $0.77 in premarket trade, a gain of 1.21%, to $64.50. Heading into Monday, shares were down nearly 21% for the month, and were trading below key moving averages.
A downside mover early Monday was NYSE Euronext (NYX), slipping $0.21, 0.77%, to $26.94. In a sign of increasing globalization of the financial services industry, Frankfurt's Deutsche Boerse, which is merging with NYSE Euronext, said today that its trade settlement unit Clearstream hired Australia's ASX to handle the complex process of managing collateral.
Among analyst upgrades Monday, recent IPO Skullcandy (SKUL) got the nod from a number of research shops. The company, which makes specialty-themed headphones aimed at the youth market, went public July 20 at $20. It closed Friday at $15.49.
KeyBanc, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch and Jefferies started coverage with ratings of Buy. Piper Jaffray and Morgan Stanley gave Skullcandy Overweight designations.
A fellow July 20 IPO was also the subject of some analyst moves this morning. Real estate information site Zillow (Z) was initiated with a rating of Hold at ThinkEquity, and a rating of Buy at Citigroup.
The stock made its Nasdaq debut priced at $20, then zoomed to a session high of $60. Shares closed Friday at $31.38.