Stocks in the U.S. are seeking direction and are looking mostly higher in mixed action ahead of the open. Earnings news from big names like Intel and JPMorgan are making headlines, and the markets are watching for PPI inflation data this morning and the Fed's Beige Book at 2 pm.
Oil slumped below $51 a barrel this morning after a deep slide yesterday. Oil tycoon Boone Pickens spoke to the Wall Street Journal and admits he lost money in oil but he thinks prices will hit $70 before long. "I've been surprised at how severe the decline was," he said in the interview. "Consequently, I'm not ready to give up. I think I've still got a chance to get to $70 before $50."
European stocks are mixed. In Asia, Japan eked out a tiny gain as the Bank of Japan began a two day meeting. Hong Kong was also slightly higher. Vietnam drew in fresh foreign money with a batch of ipos, pushing its stock market to a record.
SQUEEZE PLAY: Margin pressure from its battle with AMD is taking a toll on Intel stock this morning, even after the big chipmaker beat Wall Street's earnings forecasts yesterday. Looking ahead to today's earnings, JPMorgan, AMR ,Southwest Air ,State Street are all out this morning, while Apple reports after the bell. J.P. Morgan surprised on the upside with operating profits of $1.09, vs. estimates of 95 cents per share.
As if Intel wasn't having a bad enough day, the Wall Street Journal reports that EU investigators recommend that the EU antitrust commissioner formally charge Intel with stifling competitors, in a story that echoes of Microsoft . Speaking of Microsoft, Scott Wapner today looks at the stealth rally in Microsoft shares and will speak with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
ANOTHER HOMEBUILDER HAMMERED: Lennar missed the mark when it reported a wider than expected loss this morning, following a string of bad news from builders. We'll watch closely today when the NAHB survey is released this afternoon for more direction on the health of real estate.
EARNINGS ANALYSIS: The Wall Street Journal examined bank earnings reported yesterday and said increases in bad loans increased worries that a downturn in credit quality has begun and could worsen. It looked at reports from Wells Fargo , U.S. Bancorp and Marshall & Ilsley .
MERGER MELODRAMAS: Bids are due for the Tribune newspaper company today, and our David Faber said yesterday it is unlikely we'll see private equity groups in that auction. In another media drama, Cablevision rejected the controlling Dolan family's $8.9 billion offer as inadequate. Drug store chain CVS yesterday revised its bid for Caremark with a $2 per share dividend as a sweetener, after Express Scripts launched a $25 billion bid for Caremark.
HOT HARVEST: We're watching an interesting run in agricultural commodities. Corn has been hitting 10 year highs after the government's crop report last week showed demand for the grain from ethanol producers could lead to the smallest global inventories in 29 years. The jump in prices is worrying some stock traders that it could be an inflationary pressure in the food chain, says our Bob Pisani.