U.S. investors continue their caution as they await Friday morning's November jobs report and the mid-December Fed policy meeting. The Dow comes off its lowest close in nearly three weeks, with both the Dow and S&P 500 having dropped in each of the last four sessions. Both are on track for their first weekly losses in nine weeks.
Even as the Street looks ahead to the jobs report, there's plenty of economic data this morning to consider, starting with the Labor Department's weekly look at initial jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. ET. Economists are expecting new claims of 318,000 for last week, compared to 316,000 the prior week. At the same time, the government issues the latest revision of third quarter GDP, with forecasts calling for an annual growth rate of 3.2 percent compared to the prior reading of 2.8 percent.
At 10 a.m. ET, October factory orders are seen registering a 1.0 percent drop, compared to September's increase of 1.7 percent, and at 10:30 a.m. ET, the Energy Department will issue its weekly look at natural gas inventories.
A handful of the nation's chain stores will release their November comparable store sales numbers throughout the morning, though major retailers like Wal-Mart (WMT), Macy's (M), and Target (TGT) no longer release monthly numbers.
Retailer Dollar General (DG) and grocery giant Kroger (KR) are among companies releasing quarterly learnings this morning, along with clothing seller Jos. A. Bank (JOSB), and landscaping equipment maker Toro (TTC). Diamond Foods (DMND), Pacific Sunwear (PSUN), and Zumiez (ZUMZ) are on today's list of after-the-bell releases.
Aeropostale (ARO) leads our list of stocks to watch, reporting a loss of 29 cents per share for the third quarter, five cents wider than expected. Revenue was below estimates, and the clothing retailer also sees a wider than expected current quarter loss, as it implements heavy discounting to move its wares.
Apple's (AAPL) long-rumored iPhone deal with China Mobile has been signed, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Walt Disney (DIS) raised its annual dividend by 11 cents to 86 cents per share, a 15 percent increase. The dividend is payable on January 16 to shareholders of record on December 16.
Costco (COST) reported a November same-store sales increase of 2 percent, below analyst estimates of a 3.3 percent increase.
Mattress Firm (MFRM) beat estimates by a penny with third quarter profit of 55 cents per share, excluding certain items. Revenue was also above estimates, as customer traffic and sales rose. The mattress seller also raised its full year revenue guidance.
Verint (VRNT) reported third quarter profit of 80 cents per share, excluding certain items, beating estimates by 15 cents, and also predicted better than expected revenue growth for 2014. Verint is a maker of data analytics software.
Investor Carl Icahn has increased his stake in Nuance Communications (NUAN) to 18.72 percent from 16.90 percent, according to an SEC filing. Nuance is a maker of software that converts speech into text.
General Growth Properties (GGP) is replacing Molex (MOLX) in the S&P 500 index after the close of trading on December 9. Molex is being acquired by privately held Koch Industries.
Westfield Group (WDC) has bought the Port Authority's remaining 50 percent interest in the World Trade Center retail project of $800 million. That brings the company's total investment at the WTC site to more than $1.4 billion.
AT&T (T) and T-Mobile U.S. (TMUS) are both considering bids for wireless spectrum currently held by Verizon Wireless (VZ), according to Reuters. Analysts estimate the spectrum block could fetch up to $2.75 billion in a sale.
Netflix (NFLX) is unveiling a second season of its "House Of Cards" series on February 14, releasing all 13 episodes at the same time.
Ford (F) will launch a new version of its iconic Mustang today, with simultaneous events in six cities. This will be the first Mustang model to be sold in Europe and Asia.
Philip Morris International (PM) bought a 20 percent stake in its Russian distributor, Megapolis, for $750 million. Japan Tobacco took a similar stake at the same price.
Southwest Airlines (LUV) and Virgin America will buy LaGuardia Airport takeoff and landing slots currently owned by U.S. Airways and American Airlines, according to Reuters. The airlines are selling those slots as part of a settlement of a Justice Department suit involving their merger agreement.