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Day Ahead: Earnings, OPEC and BP Safety Report

Lots of corporate headlines are already getting attention ahead of the open. Stocks in the U.S. are lining up to open higher at this point, and earnings will be the big focus. After making gains yesterday, European stocks are mixed with a flattish performance, and Japanese stocks were little changed to the downside.

EARNINGS CENTRAL: Wall Street will be watching the first big bunch of fourth quarter earnings today. Intel reports after the close. Other big names today include Wells Fargo and Freeport-McMoran . Home builder Centex issued a warning this morning.

WHITHER OPEC? OPEC oil ministers have been backing away from the idea of an emergency meeting. Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi said production cuts are working and there's no need to panic over prices. Oil is trading slightly under $53 a barrel. Venezuela and Iran had been pushing for OPEC to set new production cuts. President Hugo Chavez met with Iran's president this weekend. Our Michelle Caruso-Cabrera is reporting from Venezuela today.

CORPORATE HEADLINES: There are a few big stories to watch from the papers this morning. Former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker releases an anticipated report today on British Petroleum's safety record. The FT describes the report as damaging and says it alleges BP failed to provide adequate resources to ensure safety at its refineries. The report also calls on the board to take the lead to correct the problems, says the FT. This comes just days after the announcement that Lord Browne will retire early as CEO, news that gave BP shares a lift.

Pfizer's new CEO Jeffrey Kindler is likely to cut thousands of jobs as part of a strategy to change the way the company develops and markets drugs, the Wall Street Journal is reporting. (subscription required).

Hewlett-Packard is expected to announce an advance using nanotechnology. The New York Times says the development could make it possible for circuitry in computer-based products to be upgraded after they are sold. The Journal also says Bank of America wants a change to the rule the bars U.S. banks from making acquisitions that would give them more than 10 percent of the total bank deposits in the U.S.

RATING CUT: Bank America downgraded Cisco to neutral from buy based on price and Prudential cut it to neutral from overweight.

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