The mood of investors has apparently taken a sudden and dramatic shift, with the major averages not only coming off their biggest losses in three weeks but also experiencing their biggest negative intraday reversal in more than four years. Futures are pointing to a sharply lower open this morning, with an unexpected slowdown in China manufacturing adding to the negative mood.
With investors parsing every word uttered by Fed chairman Ben Bernanke Wednesday, as well as those in the latest FOMC minutes, today's batch of economic stats may take on even more importance than usual. At 8:30 a.m. ET, the Labor Department's weekly look at initial jobless claims is expected to show a drop to 345,000 for the week ending May 18 from 360,000 the prior week.
At 9 a.m. ET, the FHFA's monthly Home Price Index is seen showing a March rise of 0.8 percent from February levels, compared to a 0.7 percent increase the prior month.
At 10 a.m. ET, the government will issue new home sales for April, with consensus forecasts calling for a 2.2 percent rise to an annual sales rate of 426,000 units. In March, sales increased by 1.5 percent.
Retailers Dollar Tree (DLTR) and Gamestop (GME) are among the corporate earnings reports out this morning, along with Ralph Lauren (RL), Hormel Foods (HRL), and Toro (TTC). Retail is also a prominent theme after the bell, with reports out from Sears Holdings (SHLD), Gap (GPS), and Ross Stores (RST). Salesforce.com (CRM), Pandora (P), and Williams-Sonoma (WSM) will also be out with quarterly earnings reports this afternoon.
Dow component Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) leads our list of stocks to watch, after reporting fiscal second quarter profit of $0.87 per share, excluding certain items, six cents above estimates. Revenues were short of consensus forecasts, but HP raised its full year guidance above analyst projections. HP is having some success increasing its sales of enterprise computing services.
J.C. Penney (JCP) secured a $2.25 billion loan, $500 million more than the retailer had expected to get, as the company tries to turn its fortunes around after bringing back former CEO Mike Ullman to replace the ousted Ron Johnson.
Tesla Motors (TSLA) has fully repaid a 2010 Energy Department Loan, wiring $451.8 million to the government.
LyondellBasell Industries (LYB) has raised its quarterly dividend by 25 percent to $0.50 per share, and has also approved the repurchase of up to 10 percent of its stock over the next year. CEO Jim Gallogly cited an improved outlook for the maker of plastics and chemicals.
PetSmart (PETM) reported first quarter profit of $0.98 per share, two cents above estimates, with revenues essentially in line with forecasts. The pet products retailer also raised its full year outlook and projected sales growth of three to four percent.
L Brands (LTD) earned $0.48 per share for the first quarter, two cents above estimates, with revenues in line. The retailer formerly known as Limited Brands also raised its full year forecast, helped by improved results in its Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works chains.
General Motors (GM) is pricing its Spark electric vehicle at $27,495, among the lowest for electric cars, with a $7,500 federal tax credit also available for purchasers. The Spark will go on sale next month in California and Oregon.
Merck (MRK) has received the endorsement of an FDA panel for its experimental insomnia drug suvorexant. Reviewers and Merck have been disagreeing about the dosage, with the panel repeating its view that the drug is just as effective and less dangerous at a lower dose than Merck had proposed.