A trio of problems for stocks today: lower euro; weak initial jobless claims (disappointingly high for the second week in a row); and choppier earnings reports.
Halfway mark for earnings: So far, 258 companies in the S&P 500 index have reported. But an unusually large number missed this morning: of 21 companies we looked at, 12 beat, 4 matched, and 5 missed (United Parcel Service, Exxon Mobil, Aetna, Waste Management, Celgene). The tally is now 69 percent of companies reporting beat expectations, still above the long-term average.
1) If you're wondering why equity trading volumes — and trading volumes in general — are so low, again last quarter, look no further than the report from Deutsche Bank.
Deutsche Bank's net income dropped by a third; revenues from equity trading dropped 23 percent; fixed income fell 8 percent. CEO Josef Ackermann, in his last report as chief executive, noted: "Financial markets remain cautious as we have seen in April, with investor risk appetite markedly lower."
The bigger worry is signs of slower bank activity in April. "Most people would say April was a bit sluggish compared to the first three months," Barclay CEO Bob Diamond was quoted by Reuters.
2) How long can this go on? Whirlpool did it again and beat earnings estimates by a wide margin ($1.41 a share vs. $1.12 a share estimates). But it didn't do it on increased sales — it raised prices and cut costs. CEO Jeff Fittig defended his decision to raise prices, saying it was not "economically feasible" for Whirlpool to hold firesale promotions indefinitely.
3) The new leadership group: real estate investment trusts (REITs). I noted yesterday that REITs were the new equity leadership group. One reason: A recovery in the hotel business, which was evident in this morning's report from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. The owner of Sheraton, Westin, and W said it now expects higher growth in 2012 in the key metric — revenue per available room (RevPAR) — to 6 percent to 8 percent, from a prior forecast of 5 percent to 7 percent. Much of the recovery is led by a surge in business travel; leisure is up, but lagging.
4) UPS missed, but by a penny or two. Jeez Louise, you would think the world was ending. U.S. Domestic Package, far and away the largest division, was about in-line, it looked like International (about a quarter of revenues) was a bit light on softer demand out of Asia. Lots of hand-wringing from analysts. Management reiterated its full year guidance of $4.75 to $4.89 a share (consensus $4.89).
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