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Today's Primer Post


After virtually running in place for a week, U.S. stocks have staged a positive breakout. The S&P 500 is coming off its highest close since December 26, 2007 and is within 2-1/2 points of the 1500 mark. The Dow came within a few points of a more than five year closing high, but fell about 10 points short.


The economic calendar, which was quite crowded for the past three trading sessions, is far less so today, with only the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index set for release. The report, out at 9:55 a.m. New York time, is likely to show a preliminary January reading of 75.5, compared to December's final 72.9.


Dow component General Electric (GE) is out with quarterly earnings this morning, along with Wall Street powerhouse Morgan Stanley (MS). Also out this morning: Johnson Controls (JCI), Progressive (PGR), Schlumberger (SLB), SunTrust Banks (STI), and State Street (STT). As is usually the case on Fridays, there are no reports scheduled for after the closing bell.


Intel (INTC) leads our list of stocks to watch, with the chipmaker reporting quarterly profit of $0.48 per share, three cents above estimates. However, the stock is under pressure after Intel projected a bigger than expected increase in capital spending for 2013.


American Express (AXP) earned $1.09 per share for the fourth quarter, in line with estimates, with revenues also matching consensus. Amex's earnings were down 47 percent from a year earlier, in large part due to considerable restructuring expenses.


E*Trade Financial (ETFC) has named Paul Idzik as its chief executive officer, effective January 22. He becomes the fifth chief executive officer of the online brokerage since 2009.


Capital One (COF) earned $1.41 per share for the fourth quarter, 17 cents shy of estimates, with revenues also falling short. The results were pressured by the company setting aside more money to cover credit card defaults.


Apple (AAPL) and its tablet sales will be under scrutiny once again, as Reuters reports that Japan's Sharp has halted nearly all production of the 9.7 inch screens for the iPad. That comes as demand shifts to the smaller iPad mini.


Xilinx (XLNX) posted fiscal third quarter profits of $0.38 per share, one cent above estimates, though revenues fell short of consensus. The chipmaker's current quarter revenue forecast is also shy of analyst estimates. Programmable chipmakers like Xilinx and rival Altera (ALTR) have been under pressure because of lower demand from communications market customers.


American Greetings (AM) chief executive officer Zev Weiss has increased his offer to buy out the firm to $17.50 per share from the prior $17.18. That represents a 13 percent premium to Thursday's closing price. Weiss and his family already own enough shares to give them about 51 percent of the greeting card maker's voting power.


Schlumberger (SLB) has increased its quarterly dividend by 13.6 percent to 31-1/4 cents per share. The oilfield services provider, as noted above, is due to report quarterly earnings numbers this morning.


Pfizer's (PFE) animal health unit, known as Zoetis, has unveiled the terms for a planned initial public offering. It plans to sell 86.1 million shares at $22-$25 per share, potentially making the IPO worth as much as $2.2 billion.


AT&T (T) says it expects a non-cash fourth quarter charge of about $10 billion due to bigger than expected pension obligations. It also says its fourth quarter numbers will be impacted by higher than expected smartphone-related costs, and damage from Superstorm Sandy.


Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) has priced its initial public offering at $19 per share, above the expected range of $16 - $18.


Liberty Media (LMCA) now has a more than 50 percent stake in satellite radio operator Sirius XM (SIRI), after buying 50 million more shares.