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Futures Slip a Couple Points

Futures dropped a couple points just before 9 AM ET...there are reports that an Iranian naval official has said they will send two warships through the Suez Canal...this was noted yesterday, then discounted, and is appearing AGAIN this morning...apparently this is coming from Iran's Press TV station...gold has also ticked up on this.

Elsewhere:

1) January CPI and Core CPI (ex-food and energy) came in at 0.4 percent and 0.2 percent, both a tenth of a point hotter than expected but not as hot as PPI. Initial jobless claims were about in line with expectations.

2) Cliffs Natural Resources , which produces iron ore pellets for steel making, reported earnings well above expectations, and 2011 guidance is well ahead of expectations. The key? Higher iron ore prices!

3) Other reports of price hikes due to higher costs: J.M. Smucker Q3 earnings beat estimates by a penny. Revenues grew a greater-than-expected 9 percent as some price hikes were implemented to battle rising green coffee, milk, sugar, and soybean oil costs—but price hikes in its coffee products "did not result in an overall gross margin gain."

Looking ahead, it hopes that a more recent 10 percent price hike in its coffee products will help offset continuing rise in coffee prices. Full-year revenues are now seen rising 4 percent, more than the 2.4 percent expected by the Street. The company also raised the low end of its earnings guidance, but the outlook of $4.60-$4.65 falls below the consensus of $4.67.

4) Dr. Pepper Snapple beat estimates ($0.67 vs. $0.64 consensus). Revenues rose 4 percent due to better pricing and improved volumes, particularly in its Dr. Pepper, Snapple, and Hawaiian Punch drinks. Offsetting the sales growth: "higher packaging, ingredient, and transportation costs."

Guidance for 2011 is seen inline with estimates ($2.70-$2.78 vs. $2.73 consensus). The beverage maker cautioned that packaging and ingredient costs are expected to raise its cost of goods sold by 6 percent-7 percent this year.

5) Skechers falls 6 percent after earnings missed estimates ($0.07 vs. $0.10 consensus). Despite stronger-than-expected sales, margins dropped 8 percentage points as an accumulation in inventory of its toning footwear put pressure on the shoemaker's selling prices. The company also expects weak margins for the next couple of quarters as it attempts to reduce its inventories.

6) Finally, a small deal but...Cowen Group said it will acquire LaBranche for about $192.8 million in stock, a 16 percent premium to LaBranche's Wednesday close of $4.72. LaBranche was once of the largest specialist firms on the floor, with a sizeable trading operation off the floor. The specialist operations (renamed designated market makers) was sold to Barclays a couple years ago, so most of what was left was a market-making operation for derivatives.

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  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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