Stocks in the U.S. for now look headed to open flat to lower--after yesterday's rocky trading. Europe is moving lower and oil is getting a lift from cold weather. Some big companies will roll out earnings reports today, to a market that has become hypersensitive to corporate earnings growth. Bank America,Johnson & Johnson and DuPont all report today.
EARNINGS WORRIES: It's an obsession and we're in a market that right now is taking no prisoners. Any company that hints of a slowing in earnings, thinning margins or a breakdown in revenue strength is being taken to the proverbial Wall Street woodshed , and most of them are techs. So we'll watch carefully when techs Advanced Micro,Yahoo and Sun Micro report after the bell. Our Jim Goldman will be following these and will talk today about what has been going on in tech and what the outlook is for the companies he covers.
Speaking of tech, our Jim Cramer's call to "sell, sell, sell" the group last week was mentioned by Cowen in its Technology Focus report and they note the pronouncement has created "no small amount of angst in the technology investment community" as it just happened to coincide with some bad earnings news and ugly tech stock market action.
Making headlines today is Alcatel Lucent, which is falling sharply after warning on revenues. Mobile communications is one reason. Our Jim Goldman warns us that chip maker Texas Instrument may have also had a message for the wireless world in its guidance, released late yesterday with its earnings report. "They are taking Q1 guidance lower and that bodes poorly for Nokia, as if you didn't need another signal," says our tech expert Goldman, reminding us that Nokia rival Motorola didn't exactly shine this quartet. A big chunk of TI mobile revenues come from Nokia. Goldman says the TI comments could also indicate some potential weakness for other wireless companies like Broadcom, Marvell and Qualcom. Merrill Lynch upgraded TI this morning.
SHOPPING FOR A CEO: Change at the Gap was greeted by a late day buying surge. News that CEO Pressler is out opened up all kinds of speculation about the company. Also, Target is giving an early peek into its January performance. The company said its same store sales are on track to hit its estimates of 3.5 % to 5.5%.
WARY EYE: Investors are keeping a wary eye on the Apple options saga. Bloomberg reportsthat Apple CEO Steve Jobs was questioned by federal investigators about backdating of options. The article quoted lawyers familiar with the matter and said Jobs met with SEC and justice department officials last week in San Francisco.
RATINGS CHANGES: Bear Stearns downgraded Pfizer to peer perform from outperform after its restructuring news yesterday. Goldman Sachs upgraded the home builders to neutral though it stays concerned about fundamentals.
STATE OF OPINION: We also look forward to the President's State of the Union tonight which should address health care and alternative energy. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows waning confidence in the President as he faces the Democratic congress. The poll shows only 27% have confidence in his goals and 22% want him to set policy.
AROUND THE WORLD: China's Foreign Ministry said Beijing had confirmed its recent missile test to some countries, including the U.S. and Japan. China also says that it is against an arms race in space.