In the Headlines
Wall Street was readying itself for a higher open Thursday, reversing earlier losses in futures trade. It's shaping up to be a busy day for news, as headlines from Europe and the U.S. have potential to affect stocks.
European indices were trading higher before Wall Street opened, despite worries about the stability of the Greek government, and concerns that the nation would defect from the euro. However, there is optimism that other eurozone countries will press Greece to accept already-decided-upon terms for a bailout deal.
However, eurozone watchers have grown increasingly concerned that Italy's debt problems will affect the region and the currency.
Meanwhile, officials from the G20 group of nations are meeting in Cannes, France, for their regular yearly summit. Greece, of course, and its effect on world markets and economies, will be a focus of discussion.
Another meanwhile: The European Central Bank (ECB) releases its decision on interest rates at 8:45 a.m. EDT. Despite some calls for a rate cut, the ECB is expected to leave rates unchanged. There will also be a press conference from the new ECB chief, Italy's Mario Draghi. The euro was trading higher against the dollar early Thursday.
Asian indices finished Thursday's session mostly lower ahead of today's European developments. Japan's Nikkei was shuttered for a holiday. Shanghai, however, eked out a positive finish, and is working on its second week in a row of gains after dropping to a low on Oct. 24.
Gold, which has advanced in the past two sessions, was up $9.60 an ounce to $1,739.20 in early trade.
Crude oil was also up, gaining $0.32 per barrel to $92.83.
If all the European news doesn't leave traders breathless, U.S. economic data are due out today. At 8:30 a.m. EDT, the Labor Department will release the weekly jobless claims. As usual the 400,000 level is being eyed. Last week's new claims tally came in at 402,000.
The Labor Department will also be releasing its preliminary data on third-quarter productivity at 8:30. Following last quarter's decline of 0.7%, analysts are expecting a gain of 2.5%.
At 10 a.m. is the Institute for Supply Management's October non-manufacturing, or services, index. The overwhelming majority of U.S. workers fall under the services category, rather than manufacturing, so the numbers have been getting more attention lately than they have, historically. Analysts expect the index to tick slightly higher, to 53.5.
The Commerce Department is set to release September factory orders at 10 a.m. The numbers are seen dropping 0.2%, a repeat of August's decline.
The data aren't just coming from government agencies and think tanks today; chain stores release October same-store sales figures throughout the morning. Traditional early mover Costco (COST) said comp sales were up 9%, boosted by higher gasoline prices. Analysts had expected a gain of 9.2%.
There is also plenty of earnings news today that could affect trade in individual names in the next couple of sessions. Chesapeake Energy (CHK), which is getting attention because of its exposure to oil and gas fields in the Utica Shale, is expected to report earnings of $0.66 per share on revenue of $3.14 billion in the third quarter.
Fellow energy-sector name Apache (APA) also reports its third quarter this morning, with Wall Street forecasting earnings per share of $2.78 and revenue of $4.21 billion. The company has notched an excellent track record of earnings and revenue growth in recent quarters.
After the bell is a fourth-quarter report from S&P 500 component Starbucks (SBUX), which is expected to earn $0.36 a share on sales of $2.95 billion. That would mark a year-over-year earnings decline of a penny, but a gain in revenue. The shares have been consolidating in recent weeks, after clearing a consolidation that began in July.
Also reporting late today is social network LinkedIn (LNKD), which went public in May. Analysts expect a loss of $0.04 a share on revenue of $127.35 million.
Sales have been ramping up at triple-digit rates in recent quarters; if the company meets sales views, it would mark another quarter in which the year-over-year growth rate more than doubles.
Early price movers Thursday included Qualcomm (QCOM), vaulting $5.07, 9.72%, to $57.25. Late Wednesday, the maker of mobile phone chips issued a sunny forecast for 2012.
Fellow chip-sector name Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) was among the biggest S&P decliners early Thursday, slipping $0.26, 4.76%, to $5.20. Heading into Thursday's session, the stock was already down 8.1% for the week. On Wednesday, a research firm reported that AMD was gaining on much bigger rival Intel (INTC), in terms of market share.
Enterprise software maker Tibco (TIBX) was initiated with a rating of Buy at UBS. Shares have been consolidating since pulling back from July's high of $31.45, and are currently trading above key moving averages.
Janney Capital downgraded a couple of restaurant stocks. Darden (DRI) and Cheesecake Factory (CAKE) were demoted to Neutral from Buy on concerns about higher commodity costs and slowing same-store traffic in the casual dining business.
Initial Public Offering
After today's closing bell is the eagerly awaited pricing of Groupon's IPO. As of this morning, it appeared likely that shares would price above the proposed range of $16 to $18.
Ahead of the offering, many analysts have been critical of the deal, in which 5% of the company will be put up for sale. Many skeptics say the intention is to get an opening-day pop on the stock price, on heavy demand for a small number of much-hyped shares. The stock will begin trading Friday using the ticker GRPN.