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Today's Primer Post

Modest Tuesday gains for the Dow and S&P 500 have put both at their highest in more than five years, with the Dow now just 1 percent from its all-time closing high. Both are up more than 1 percent for February and have not lost ground on consecutive days so far this month.


Most analysts see little direct market reaction to President Obama's State Of The Union address or to the Republican response given by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Analysts note that much of what was said by both sides was a reiteration of viewpoints given often over the past few months.


The government's January retail sales report is out at 8:30 a.m. New York time, and economists are looking for a January rise of 0.1 percent following a 0.5 percent jump in December. At 10 a.m., the December business inventories report is expected to register a 0.1 percent increase after a 0.3 percent rise in November.


Regular weekly reports out today include the Mortgage Bankers Association's look at mortgage applications at 7 a.m., and the Energy Department's assessment of oil and gasoline inventories at 10:30 a.m.


The Treasury will sell $24 billion in 10-year notes, with the results of that sales available shortly after 1 p.m.


Among the companies set to issue quarterly earnings this morning: Deere (DE), Dean Foods (DF), Dr Pepper Snapple (DPS), Duke Energy (DUK), and Hyatt Hotels (H). Dow component Cisco System (CSCO) leads the list of after-the-bell reports, with Applied Materials (AMAT), Mondelez International (MDLZ), MetLife (MET), NetApp (NTAP), Nvidia (NVDA), TripAdvisor (TRIP), and Whole Foods (WFM) also scheduled to issue earnings.


Comcast (CMCSA) and Dow component General Electric (GE) lead our list of stocks to watch, as Comcast buys the remaining 49 percent stake in NBCUniversal held by GE for $16.7 billion. Comcast also raised its dividend by 20 percent and said it would buy back an additional $2 billion in shares this year, while GE says the deal gives it the opportunity to return more cash to shareholders, including an immediate raise in its stock buyback plan to $35 billion from $23 billion.


Cliff's Natural Resources (CLF) earned $0.62 per share, excluding certain items, for the fourth quarter, nine cents above estimates. But the iron ore and coal producer also slashed its dividend by 76 percent, as a sharp drop in iron ore prices impacts its business.


Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) reported fourth quarter profit of $0.89 per share, seven cents below estimates, though revenues came in above consensus. The restaurant chain did see upbeat sales trends, but analysts are concerned over high prices for chicken wings, which has forced the company to raise menu prices.


Rackspace (RAX) reported fourth quarter profit of $0.21 per share, matching estimates, but its revenues came in below consensus. The numbers are accelerating concern about slowing growth for the web hosting company and its competitors.


Netgear (NTGR) earned $0.55 per share for the fourth quarter, one cent above estimates, with revenues also beating consensus. However, the network equipment maker forecast current quarter revenue below what the Street is expecting, because of a cut in spending from internet service providers.


Moody's (MCO) has increased its stock buyback program by $1 billion dollars, in addition to the $677 million remaining from a prior authorization.


WellPoint Health (WLP) has named Joseph Swedish as its new chief executive officer. Swedish had been chief executive of not-for-profit hospital group Trinity Health.


J.C. Penney (JCP) has boosted its borrowing capacity by $100 million to $1.85 billion, as well as expanding an option to borrow more in the future. The move is causing concern among some analysts about the company's turnaround plan.


Legg Mason (LM) is planning to name interim chief executive Joseph Sullivan as its permanent CEO, according to CNBC's Kayla Tausche.