In the Headlines
Plenty of U.S. economic data releases have the potential to move the markets today. Ahead of Wednesday's opening bell, Wall Street futures pointed to a higher open, following three days in a row of gains on major indices.
It's the last day of August, and despite the recent upside action, NYSE and Nasdaq stocks are on pace to finish the month with losses. It would mark the fourth straight month of downside trade.
Overseas, Asia wrapped up Wednesday's session mostly higher. Asian traders followed the lead of their U.S. counterparts, who sent stocks higher yesterday after release of the Fed minutes, which provided optimism that the central bank could further support the U.S. economy. Bargain shopping also sent many beaten-up stocks higher throughout the region.
In Europe, there was plenty of green before Wall Street's open, with major indices sporting hefty gains. Materials, insurance and industrials were among the top-performing sectors. Here, too, analysts attributed some of the gains to some encouragement from the Fed minutes.
A Busy Day for Data
However, economic data due out today could sway investors one way or the other. Before the bell, outplacement services company Challenger, Gray & Christmas said August job cuts totaled 51,114, a decline of 23% from July's 16-month high. Most cuts came from the government sector.
Also pre-open, we will get the ADP private payrolls data, which is expected to show a gain of 100,000 private sector jobs. These numbers frequently fail to correlate with the government's monthly jobs data, but the ADP survey gets a lot of attention anyway, as a precursor. The Labor Department's nonfarm payrolls report for August is due out Friday.
At 9:45 a.m. the Chicago Purchasing Managers index will release its report, which is expected to drop to 53.5 from July's reading of 58.8.
Fifteen minutes later, the Commerce Department will issue its report on July factory orders. Economists see a rebound from June, but even a gain may be greeted with muted enthusiasm, because of the lag time in the report.
The Energy Department releases its weekly data on crude oil stockpiles at 10:30 a.m. Analysts expect an increase of 400,000 barrels. These data seldom move the markets, except in times of high upside volatility in crude prices. West Texas Intermediate fell $0.91 in early trade, to $87.99 per barrel. Gold added $2.80 per ounce, to $1,832.60.
Early today, the Mortgage Bankers Association said loan applications fell 9.6%, despite low interest rates. The data measure requests for new loans as well as refinancings. A slump in refinancings was behind last week's decline.
In earnings reports this morning, men's clothing retailer Jos. A. Bank (JOSB) said its second-quarter results were $0.74 per share, which beat estimates. Sales trounced expectations, coming in at $230.7 million, whereas analysts had expected revenue of $210.8 million. Shares fell $1.77, or 3.74%, to $45.50 in premarket trade.
Mining and construction equipment maker Joy Global (JOYG) reported third-quarter income of $1.61 per share, vs. views of $1.53 per share. Revenue was $1.1 billion, slightly below expectations of $1.17 billion. The Milwaukee-based company said it would sell the drilling gear business of its LeTourneau Technologies unit to Cameron International (CAM) for $375 million in cash. Joy Global also boosted its full-year earnings and revenue outlook. Heading into Wednesday's session, Joy Global was showing a year-to-date decline of 5.05%. Shares are trading below key moving averages.
After the bell, youth-oriented clothing chain Zumiez (ZUMZ) is due out with its second-quarter results. Analysts expect income of a nickel per share on sales of $112.18 million. Wall Street sees profit growth in each of the next two years, but the stock has been a dismal performer, shedding 28.25% so far this year.
Among early price movers Wednesday, S&P 500 component AK Steel (AKS) rebounded off a steep decline. The stock advanced $0.26, or 2.81%, to $9.50. AK has declined 43.56% this year, dropping precipitously in late July on a poor earnings report.
Another benchmark index component, Oracle (ORCL), was an early loser, falling $0.27, or 0.97%, to $27.60. According to published reports, federal investigators are looking into some of the company's overseas software sales. The investigation has reportedly been under way for at least a year.
Analyst upgrades Wednesday included FBR Capital's initiation of coverage on Columbia Sportswear (COLM) with a rating of Market Perform. The stock has traded lower in the past four months, along with the general market.