In the Headlines
Wall Street futures made a half-hearted attempt to rebound Wednesday, following Tuesday's heavy-volume gap-downs on major indices. NYSE and Nasdaq stocks were poised for moderately higher opens.
Greece confirmed that its prime minister would seek a referendum on the eurozone bailout deal. Stateside, traders awaited today's Federal Reserve policy decision and press conference from Ben Bernanke.
European stocks were trading mixed early Wednesday, with financials bouncing back after yesterday's pummeling. The euro was trading higher vs. the greenback.
Asian stocks finished above session lows, with Shanghai and Hong Kong closing in positive territory. Japan's exporters fell as the dollar rose vs. the yen, following the Bank of Japan's currency intervention earlier this week.
Outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas issued some jobs data out this morning. The company's survey found that 42,759 jobs were slashed last month, down from previous highs.
ADP is slated to release its October employment change data at 8:15 a.m. EDT. Analysts see a gain of 100,000 private sector jobs, which would be an uptick from September's 91,000.
Of course, today's most eagerly anticipated economic news comes from the Fed. At 12:30 p.m. EDT, the Federal Open Market Committee reveals its interest-rate decision. It has already said it will keep rates low until 2013, so nobody expects a change in that regard.
The bigger news comes at 2:15 p.m. EDT, when Fed Chief Bernanke delivers his post-game press conference. Economists, analysts, traders, journalists and assorted others will be listening for clues about a third round of quantitative easing, and for Bernanke's remarks about the Fed's economic outlook.
As earnings season rolls on, most of the high-profile blue chips have reported. However, there are still plenty of growth names on the docket.
Gold tacked on $17.50 per ounce in early trade, to $1,729.30 per ounce. Meanwhile, West Texas Intermediate was up $0.56 per barrel, to $92.75.
MasterCard (MA), which has been consolidating price gains since mid-September's all-time high, is expected to report third-quarter income of $4.82 a share on revenue of $1.71 billion. Growth metrics have been solid lately. Sales gains at the payment processor have accelerated in each of the past three quarters. Wall Street expects the company to post double-digit profit increases this year and next.
Fellow S&P 500 component Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTSH) also reported early today. While fundamentals are healthy, the stock has been consolidating price gains since May.
The company earned $0.73 a share, with revenue coming in at $1.50 billion. Wall Street had expected income of $0.71 per share on revenue of $1.57 billion. It guided fourth-quarter earnings and revenue higher than Wall Street views. Cognizant shares fell $0.92, 1.30%, to $70 ahead of the bell.
After the bell, Qualcomm (QCOM) reports its fourth quarter. The maker of power management gear and software for wireless equipment is expected to report income of $0.78 a share on revenue of $4 billion. This is another example of a stock that's performed poorly, despite good fundamentals. Shares are trading below key moving averages, having retreated along with the general market in recent days.
Also due out late today is Whole Foods Markets (WFM). Wall Street sees the natural grocer earning $0.41 a share on sales of $2.36 billion. The company has beaten earnings views in each of the past four quarters.
Early price movers included F5 Networks (FFIV), maker of network optimization software. The stock jumped $4.44, 4.42%, to $105. Shares bolted more than 46% last month, following four months in a row of downside trade.
This morning's move followed JMP Securities' initiation of coverage with a rating of Outperform.
On the downside, medical supplier Becton Dickinson (BDX) fell $1.11, 1.46%, to $75, after missing fourth-quarter earnings views.
In addition to JMP's initiation of F5, analyst moves Wednesday included UBS' start of coverage on Intrepid Potash (IPI). The fertilizer maker was given a rating of Neutral. While many of its industry peers have sported strong price growth, relative to the general market, Intrepid Potash has been a price laggard.