Stocks headed for a slightly lower open as Wall Street wrestles with a flock of earnings report and a tangle of mixed signals from the corporate world.
Earnings continue to come in largely above expectations, but other factors are waylaying the stock market's recent advances—ranging from Walmart's price cuts to analyst Richard Bove's downgrade of Wells Fargo to rising oil prices.
The weak dollar bears watching once again Thursday, after the euro rose above the psychological $1.50 mark Wednesday.
Corporate profits will nonetheless be a key factor in today's trading once again, as we roll on with a busy week. This morning's earnings roster includes:
Black & Decker; Bristol-Myers; Dow Chemical; EMC Corp.; Fifth Third; Goodrich; Starwood Hotels; Hershey; Kimberly-Clark; McDonald's; 3M; Merck; Occidental Petroleum; Philip Morris; PNC Bank; Ryder System; Reynolds American; Raytheon; Suntrust Banks; AT&T; Travelers; Union Pacific; UPS; Xerox.
More upbeat earnings reports after the bell late Wednesday from eBay and Amgen, both of which saw earnings beat Wall Street estimates. Other possible stock movers include Novartis, which has boosted its growth forecast, and Ericsson, whose Q3 results lagged forecasts.
There also will be some some significant economic reports, including the Labor Department's weekly reading on first time jobless claims at 8:30 am New York time. Economists expect 515,000 new claims, which would be up from 514,000 last week.
The Conference Board is out with its September index of leading economic indicators at 10 am, with economists looking for an increase of 0.8 percent. That would follow a rise of 0.6 percent in August.
Boston Federal Reserve President Eric Rosengren will be making a speech at 10:30 am at the Boston Fed's annual Cape Cod economic conference in Chatham, Mass., while New York Fed President William Dudley appears at the same conference at 1:30 pm. At 4:30 pm, the Fed will release its monthly balance sheet update.
Pay czar Kenneth Feinberg will appear before the House Oversight Committee in a hearing that begins at 11 am. On Wednesday, we learned that Feinberg will mandate that top executives at bailed-out companies have their 2009 salaries cut by up to 90 percent, with total compensation cut by up to 50 percent.
- Written by Peter Schacknow, Senior Producer, CNBC Breaking News Desk