Earnings wins by a parade of tech names could give a lift to stocks Wednesday and puts the focus on Apple's late day report.
Intel, IBM, Yahoo , and VMWare all reported better-than-expected earnings after Tuesday's bell, despite expectations by traders that the tech group could hold some disappointments. Cree went against the trend, reporting a 58 percent drop in net profits to $18.9 million, or $0.17 per share.
"This is a vitamin pill. No question about it," said Steve Massocca of Wedbush Securities. "It's obviously good for the tech tape tomorrow."
Stocks meandered Tuesday, on thin volume after selling off Monday on Standard and Poor's revised negative outlook for the United States and warning that it could downgrade the country's AAA rating. The move did send buyers into gold, which moved above $1500 per ounce for the first time Tuesday.
"More and more people are dismissive of the S&P thing," said Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, in an interview on "Squawk Box" Tuesday, disputed the S&P warning and said both parties in Washington are showing a willingness to work on the deficit problem.
"He's kind of like the restaurant owner, who says: 'the food is good here.' What else is he going to say," said Cashin.
Cashin said earnings are Wednesday's focus, and it's too early to say whether concerns are justified that this quarter will bring more disappointments than last quarter. "They are picking and choosing which ones to focus on. People are talking about pressure on profit margins and higher commodities prices...I think by the middle of next week, we'll have a better idea," he said.
Tech bellwether Intel reported a strong $0.59 per share, compared to the expected $0.46 per share. Revenues were $12.85 billion, up form $10.299 the year earlier, and well above the $11.59 billion forecast. Intel had trimmed its revenue outlook for the quarter in January when it disclosed a design error in one of its chipsets. VMWare was another high flier after the bell, rising sharply after it reported profits of $0.48 per share, well above the expected $0.42 per share, and Riverbed Technology also soared after reporting strong revenue growth and record margins.
IBM also reported better results of $2.41 per share, compared to an expected $2.30 per share. IBM also raised its year forecast to $13.15 per share from $13 per share, but its stock slipped as investors were disappointed the company did not raise guidance more. IBM does about 11 percent of its business in Japan, and there was speculation that the earthquake could impact its bottom line. But IBM saw a strong performance in emerging markets, India, Brazil, China and Russia, where revenues were up 26 percent.
"I would anticipate this is going to be good for the tech tape in the morning...until we get the next batch tomorrow morning," said Massocca.
Companies reporting Wednesday ahead of the bell include AT&T, United Technologies, Abbott Labs, Wells Fargo, Altria, AMR, Freeport-McMoran, Nasdaq OMX and Union Pacific. Late day reports are expected from Apple, American Express, Qualcomm, Yum Brands, Marriott, Western Digital, Boston Scientific and Chipotle.
There is also existing home sales data Wednesday, expected at 10 a.m.
Cashin said there is much chatter about the Fed's upcoming meeting next week, and whether the Fed will indicate it is ready to completely exit from its quantitative easing programs. Under the so-called QE2 program, the Fed plans to purchase $600 billion in Treasury securities by June, and it is not expected to extend the program. However, it has been reinvesting the proceeds of its mortgage holdings in the Treasury market as those holdings roll off and that part of the program remains unclear.
Cashin said traders are debating whether the Fed will be affected by signs the economy is weakening, or that hiring may be impacted by rising oil and other commodities prices.
"There are signs this is fragile enough. That's why Thursday's initial unemployment claims are getting a lot of discussion," he said.
Wednesday is the one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
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