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US Stocks Seen Up Ahead of Bernanke's Speech

Wednesday, 22 May 2013 | 7:49 AM ET


Investors are focused squarely on the Federal Reserve today, with chairman Ben Bernanke set to testify before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, and the Fed set to release the minutes of its most recent policy meeting. That follows yet another round of all-time highs Tuesday for the Dow and the S&P 500.


Chairman Bernanke's testimony will begin at 10 a.m. ET, 30 minutes after the markets open. Four hours later, at 2 p.m. ET, the FOMC minutes are out, so the Street will have plenty of words to parse as investors try to figure out when and how the Fed will exit from its current accommodative monetary policy.


We'll also get fresh housing market data today, with the National Association of Realtors out with April existing home sales at 10 a.m. ET. Consensus forecasts call for a 1.4 percent increase to an annual rate of 4.99 million homes, following a 0.6 percent drop in March.


Retail earnings reports are in focus this morning as well, with Target (TGT), Lowe's (LOW), and Staples (SPLS) set to release quarterly reports. Dow component Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) will be out with earnings after the closing bell, along with retailers L Brands (LTD) and PetSmart (PETM).


Saks (SKS) is a stock to watch today, after spiking higher after-hours on a New York Post report saying the retailer has hired Goldman Sachs to assist with a possible sale of the company.


Intuit (INTU) reported fiscal third quarter profits of $2.97 per share, excluding certain items, four cents above estimates. However, the software producer's current quarter EPS guidance of $0.03 - $0.07 is below Street estimates of $0.11. The company behind the popular Quicken and TurboTax software has said that its tax season was "lackluster".


Analog Devices (ADI) earned $0.52 per share for its second quarter, in line with estimates, but its current quarter outlook of $0.51 – $0.56 falls short of the $0.57 consensus estimate. The designer of signal-processing technology has been hit by global economic concerns and weak customer demand through the industry.


NetApp (NTAP) reported fiscal fourth quarter profit of $0.69 per share, beating estimates by a penny, with revenues in line. The data storage company does see current quarter earnings short of the $0.53 consensus estimates at $0.45 - $0.50, as it deals with higher expenses and slower sales. NetApp has also initiated a quarterly dividend of $0.15/share, and started a restructuring which will include cutting 900 jobs.


Merck (MRK) announced a $5 billion accelerated share repurchase program. The drug maker will buy back nearly 100 million shares from Goldman Sachs at current market prices.


Sony (SNE) has cut sales targets for digital cameras, smartphones, and tablet computers, although it does see "encouraging signs" for its electronics business. The company also plans to assess a proposal from investor Daniel Loeb, its biggest shareholder, that it spin off its entertainment business.


Ford (F) will shut down 21 of its North American factories for one week this summer, a shorter time than usual, to meet growing demand.