Inflation data could play a big role in setting the course for stocks, which so far are looking for direction ahead of the opening. Asia markets were mostly lower, while Europe's stock markets this morning are mostly higher.
March PPI is expected to come in at 0.6%, after rising 1.3% in February. University of Michigan consumer sentiment is due at 10 am New York time.
Dow component GE reported profits in line with expectations and affirmed its guidance for the year. General Electric reported earnings per share of 44 cents for the first quarter, in line with estimates.
Merck, also a Dow stock, raised its first quarter and full-year guidance late yesterday. Some coincidence that the good news followed so closely on the FDA's rejection yesterday of Merck's Vioxx successor, Arcoxia. Deutsche Bank's Barbara Ryan today raised her price target on the stock to $56 and said Street estimates still look to low.
The Arcoxia news was not a surprise though. "Wall Street expectations were extremely low. Most if not all analysts had not put the drug into their models," says our pharmaceutical industry expert Mike Huckman. "I think there could be a little bit of upside for Pfizer because it means Pfizer gets to maintain the corner on the market with the only Cox 2 drug out there. It's a slight negative for Novartis which was hoping to get its Cox 2, Prexige, approved."
McDonald's, another Dow stock, said its March comparable store sales rose 8.2%, well above street estimates.
Deal or No Deal?
The saga at Dow Chemical gets odder and odder. Yesterday, the company reported a board member and executive were being let go for inappropriate discussions about a takeover of the company. The executive talked to our David Faber and denies the allegations but the company says it has its proof. The big question now is whether Dow is in play or not.
Sallie Mae, the big student loan company, is reported to be in talks with private equity for a buyout that could top $20 billion, says the New York Times. Apple, meanwhile, says it won't ship its next generation operating system in June as planned, saying it diverted resources to the launch of its new iPhone.
CBS fired radio personality Don Imus, ending a painful week of debate and outcry about the disc jockey's fate. NBC Universal had announced earlier in the week that it would no longer simulcast the Imus program on MSNBC because of his offensive remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team. In full disclosure, I am a graduate of Rutgers University and also an employee of NBC Universal. This week, I was proud of both institutions.