Business News

Today's Primer Post


U.S. stocks are coming off their best day of December, as hopes for a fiscal cliff deal increase. That sentiment may well carry over into today, as the White House offers a compromise on income thresholds for higher tax rates on the wealthy. With Monday's gains, the S&P 500 now sits at its highest in nearly two months.

The third quarter current account deficit leads off today's list of economic reports at 8:30 a.m. New York time. Economists are predicting a deficit of $103.5 billion, compared to a second quarter shortfall of $117.4 billion. We'll also get the December sentiment index from the National Association of Home Builders, with consensus forecasts calling for a rise to 47 from November's 46.

The Treasury is set to sell $35 billion in 5-year notes, with the results of that auction available shortly after 1 p.m.

Financial information provider FactSet (FDS) and investment firm Jefferies Group (JEF) are among the companies issuing quarterly earnings this morning, while Oracle (ORCL) is the most prominent of the earnings reports due after today's closing bell.

Boeing (BA) leads our list of stocks to watch, as the aerospace company announces a 10 percent dividend increase and the resumption of a $3.6 billion share repurchase program. Boeing had suspended share buybacks back in 2009.

Wal-Mart's (WMT) Mexican affiliate routinely paid off officials in that country to allow it to open stores in desirable locations, according to a report in the New York Times. The retailer says the company is looking into the claims made in the article, as part of a broader investigation into overseas practices that began more than a year ago.

Apple's (AAPL) request to ban Samsung phones from sale in the U.S. has been rejected by a federal judge in San Francisco. A jury had recently found that those models infringed Apple patents, and ordered Samsung to pay Apple $1.05 billion.

Allstate (ALL) has approved a share buyback program of up to $1 billion, following the recent conclusion of a buyback of the same size.

McDonald's (MCD) is asking franchisees to remain open on Christmas Day, according to Ad Age. McDonald's had done the same on Thanksgiving, helping to push November sales well beyond analyst estimates.

Diamond Foods (DMND) reported fiscal first quarter profit of $0.24 per share, excluding certain items, one cent above estimate. Its profit margins were helped by a cutback in spending on promotions and advertising.

ConocoPhillips (COP) will pay federal and state civil penalties of about $200,000 to settle an oil spill case in Alaska. The state will also receive about $112,000 from the company to cover the cost of its investigation into the spill. (ACOM) has been ordered by a judge to provide more information about its planned $1.6 billion sale to private equity firm Permira. The genealogy website operator must provide that information before a planned December 27 shareholder vote on the sale.