Fear on the Floor Ahead of Jobs Report
Initial jobless claims may have hit a five-year low this morning, but there's a lot of fear about Friday's jobs report. Estimates have been coming down, and no one seems to believe there could be an upside surprise, or if there is it will be revised downward.
Bears are already saying this could be the report that finally forces the markets to take a breather. They're already scouring the markets for signs of technical breakdowns: The Dow Transports, for example, peaked in March and has seen a series of lower highs for the past six weeks. The small-cap Russell 2000 also peaked in March.
The bottom line is that the S&P 500 is up 10 percent this year. Despite all the concern about low-growth and high-profile earnings misses like Merck, earnings growth so far is about 4 percent for the S&P 500, with revenue growth about half that. I've said this before: With the Federal Reserve continue to backstop markets, investors seem to be happy with earnings growth of roughly 5 percent.
(Read More: Should Investors Fear the Fearless Market?)
1) Higher prices! Did you notice that several companies beat forecasts and/or raised guidance because they were able to raise prices? Consider:
a) HMO giant Cigna reported earnings and revenue well above estimates, and raised its full-year forecast. The key driver: Premiums are going up.
b) Marriott beat on the top and bottom line because it was able to raise room rates.
c) Avis Budget beat because it was able to charge higher rental rates in North America.
d) Insurance companies have had an excellent season ... because premiums are going up. Take Travelers, which reported excellent earnings last week, largely on the premium increases. Tell me about it: My homeowners insurance went up 25 percent this year. Really.
2) NYSE IPO: The initial public offering of ING U.S. (symbol "VOYA"), the wholly owned subsidiary of Dutch banking giant ING, met with a mixed reception: Pricing more shares than expected (65.2 million vs. the 64.2 million expected) but at a lower price ($19.50 a share, below the $21 to $24 a share price talk). Huh?
This happened because the company specifically stated it needed to get $600 million (net, after expenses) as part of a recapitalization plan for the parent company. The parent company sold 38.5 million shares, the rest was new stock. So if investors wanted a lower price (they did), the company had to raise the shares offered.
3) What's up with defensive companies missing? Swiss drug company Sanofi, the latest drug company to miss, joining Pfizer and Merck, as well as Procter & Gamble. Sanofi cited pricing pressure, lost patent protection, and weakness in Europe.
—By CNBC's Bob Pisani