Earnings: Still choppy, but mostly good news for tech and building materials.
Thirty percent of the S&P 500 reporting, blended earnings are up 2.4 percent for the quarter—not bad considering we entered with expectations of essentially zero. The main problem is continuing low revenue beats.
Two sectors stand out today:
1) Tech is a mixed bag. I know everyone is obsessed with Apple, but other companies are reporting decent earnings. Broadcom, which makes semis for smartphones and tablets, was decent, following on good reports from other semiconductors (Texas Instruments and STMicroelectronics last week).
2) Builders/building materials/appliances: Housing improvement continues, with some bumps on the road:
a) a nice beat from Meritage Homes, which gave 2013 guidance above consensus: "We believe job growth in most of our markets has increased demand for homes.";
b) insulation maker Owens Corning, which recently announced price increases;
c) Whirlpool, which hit an historic high yesterday and affirmed its 2013 earnings guidance; and
d) a big beat from hardwood flooring retailer Lumber Liquidators, which reported earnings of $0.57 a share and top line of $230 million, well above $0.42 a share and $215 million expected, and raised 2013 earnings guidance. It, too, will open at an historic high. And get this: It's pulling in more money on the top line: "We saw consistent strength during the quarter in our top line and an expansion of both our gross and operating margins to deliver a solid bottom line"; and
e) there were a couple disappointments in this space—a miss on top and bottom line from USG, and furniture retailer Ethan Allen also missed, citing lower shipments to China, and reduced backlogs due to super storm Sandy.
a) Europe is trading up, even though German business confidence slumped in April. Huh? There's widespread talk the European Central Bank will be cutting rates at its meeting next week, which would weaken the euro and make European exports more competitive. ECB chief Mario Draghi has sufficient cover, since inflation is below the two percent target.
—By CNBC's Bob Pisani