Stock market investors have little to complain about when assessing the first four months of the year. For the first time since 1998, the Dow, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq each gained more than 10 percent for the first four months of the year, capped by a record high close Tuesday for the S&P 500 on April's final trading day. In addition, the Dow has now closed higher on 16 consecutive Tuesdays.
A flood of data and the end of a Fed meeting will no doubt be the key to whether the Street's bullish times continue today. The first focus for investors occurs at 8:15 a.m. ET, when ADP releases its April snapshot of private sector employment. Consensus forecasts call for an addition of 160,000 private sector jobs, following a rise of 158,000 in march.
At 10 a.m. ET, the monthly manufacturing index from the Institute for Supply Management is expected to come in at 50.9 for April after March's 51.3. The government's March construction spending report is out at the same time, seen registering a 0.6 percent rise after a 1.2 percent increase in February.
U.S. automakers will be issuing April sales figures throughout the morning, with forecasts from Edmunds.com calling for an overall increase of 10.4 percent over a year ago to the highest April level since 2007.
Weekly reports out today include mortgage applications from the Mortgage Bankers Association at 7 a.m. ET, and the Energy Department's snapshot of oil and gasoline inventories at 10:30 a.m. ET.
The Street will have to wait until 2 p.m. ET for the Fed's latest policy statement, although it's not expected to show much difference from the prior meeting. However, the statement will be scrutinized for any hints of when and how the Fed might exit from the current accommodative monetary policy stance.
It's also a busy day for earnings, led by Dow component Merck (MRK). We'll also get quarterly numbers from NBCUniversal parent Comcast (CMCSA), Time Warner (TWX), Viacom (VIA), Allergan (AGN), Clorox (CLX), CVS Caremark (CVS), Garmin (GRMN), and MasterCard (MA). Facebook (FB) is among today's prominent after-the-bell reports, along with Visa (V), Seagate Technology (STX), MetLife (MET), Marriott (MAR), JDS Uniphase (JDSU), CBS (CBS), Allstate (ALL), and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM).
DreamWorks Animation (DWA) is among our stocks to watch today, reporting first quarter profit of $0.07 per share compared to expectations of a $0.03 per share loss. Revenue was also well above estimates, with the success of the animated film "The Croods" helping to drive results.
Apple (AAPL) finalized a $17 billion debt sale to raise money for increased dividend payments and stock buybacks.
Bloomin' Brands (BLMN) earned $0.50 per share for the first quarter, six cents above estimates, and the Outback Steakhouse parent also raised its full year estimate as sales improve. However, that forecast of $1.06 - $1.10 per share for the year is largely below analyst estimates of $1.10.
Western Union (WU) earned $0.37 per share for the first quarter, five cents above estimates, though revenues were slightly below forecasts. Western Union saw transaction volume for its money transfer services increase in markets where it has cut prices.
OpenTable (OPEN) shares may benefit from the news that SAC Capital has taken a 5 percent stake. OpenTable is an online restaurant reservations provider.
Bankrate (RATE) reported first quarter profit of $0.12 per share, excluding certain items, three cents above estimates, with revenues also beating forecasts. Bankrate is a provider of financial information on mortgages, credit cards, insurance, and other areas.
Nuance Communications (NUAN) is getting increased interest from investor Carl Icahn, who has upped his stake to 10.72 percent from 9.27 percent, according to an SEC filing.
Costco (COST) raised its quarterly dividend to $0.31 per share from the prior $0.275, payable May 31 to shareholders of record on May 17.
BMC Software (BMCS) is reportedly moving closer to being bought, with Reuters reporting that a private equity group led by Bain Capital and Golden Gate Capital is in the lead to buy the company for more than $6.5 billion or $45 - $50 per share.