Stocks in the U.S. are leaning towards a higher open, as investors brace for a barrage of earnings news. Oil is bucking its recent downtrend and is slightly higher as cold weather finally settles into the Northeast. European stocks are trading higher, helped by mining, metals and oil stocks. Asian markets closed higher with Tokyo at a 9-month high.
OIL OPTIONS: The February crude contract expires today and is currently trading in the $52 a barrel range. The March contract is currently trading above $53, about a dollar a barrel higher. The expiration "may add a little fuel to the fire of whatever directional impulse it has," said Mike Fitzpatrick, Fimat vice president of energy risk management. Fitzpatrick sees oil trading higher today and the February contract will probably close out around its current level.
EARNINGS CENTRAL: Earnings news will be the dominant theme. Pfizer numbers are out and it beat analysts' estimates by a penny. Excluding special items, the drug maker earned $0.43 per share. Our Mike Huckman is at Pfizer's analysts meeting where the company is expected to discuss strategy. American Express and Texas Instruments are also reporting today.
TECH TALK: Intel and Sun Microsystems could get some attention. According to reports, they are set to announce a deal under which Sun would buy Intel chips for use in server systems. The deal is seen as a blow to Advanced Micro Devices.
WASHINGTON WATCH: A day ahead of his State of the Union address, the Wall Street Journal reports that President Bush will look to extend the tax deductibility of health coverage to everyone who buys it individually, outside of the work place. The plan would also include a provision to include health care benefits as income for the first time, making the benefit taxable. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that health care is the nation's top economic concern. Our John Harwood will also be talking today about the new candidates jumping into the presidential race over the weekend. Sen. Hilary Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan) announced Saturday, and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Democrat announced Sunday.
GLOBAL WARNING: When corporate America looks for regulation, it clearly sees a problem that it needs to get out ahead of. An alliance of major companies today is calling on the federal government to move quickly to enact legislation that would require the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The group includes DuPont, Duke Energy,General Electric,Lehman Brothers, Caterpillar,Alcoa and British Petroleum.
AROUND THE WORLD: Iran said it will test short range missiles, as the U.S. sends a second air craft carrier moving into the Gulf. Venezuela President Hugo Chavez ordered his telecommunications minister to seize control of Verizon controlled CANTV before paying compensation to its U.S. owners. Russia's President Vladimir Putin pledged to keep natural gas and oil supplies flowing to Europe after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The promise follows Russia's temporary shutdown by of an oil pipeline to Europe because of a dispute with Belarus. A chilling report in the Sunday New York Times looked at the possibility that Pakistan intelligence forces have been supporting restoration of the Taliban in Afghanistan in part to maintain stability in their own western region.