Today's Primer

Today's Primer Post

Though its Wednesday gains were almost entirely driven by IBM, the Dow nonetheless is coming off its highest close since October 31, 2007 - the same month it achieved its all-time high. The Dow is also coming off its ninth gain in 10 sessions, something it hadn't done in nearly two years. Today's outlook, however, will be dimmed by a disappointing earnings report from Apple after the closing bell.

Investors will have two economic reports to consider this morning, beginning with the Labor Department's weekly look at initial jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. New York time. Economists think claims will jump by 25,000 from last week's multi-year low to a total of 360,000. At 10 a.m., the Conference Board's Index of Leading Economic Indicators is expected to register a 0.4 percent rise for December, compared to November's 0.2 percent drop.

The Energy Department will be out with its weekly look at natural gas inventories at 10:30 a.m., and will also issue the holiday-delayed report on oil and gasoline inventories at 11 a.m.

Dow component 3M (MMM) leads the list of corporate earnings due out this morning. We'll also see the latest quarterly reports from Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY), Southwest Airlines (LUV), Raytheon (RTN), Stanley Black & Decker (SWK), Union Pacific (UNP), and Xerox (XRX), among others. Microsoft (MSFT), AT&T (T), and Starbucks (MSFT) headline today's after-the-bell list, joined by E*Trade (ETFC), VeriSign (VRSN), KLA-Tencor (KLAC), and Juniper Networks (JNPR).

Apple (AAPL) is the slam-dunk leader in our stocks to watch list, tumbling after hours as it uses a disappointing revenue forecast and falls short of iPhone sales expectations for the just-concluded quarter. Apple did earn $13.81 per share for its fiscal first quarter, which was above Street estimates of $13.47.

Amgen (AMGN) earned $1.40 per share for the fourth quarter, two cents above estimates, with revenues also beating consensus. It's also issuing an upbeat forecast for 2013, with the biotech company saying it's on track to hit the upper end of its 2015 revenue forecast two years early.

Stryker (SYK) reported fourth quarter profit of $1.14 per share, two cents above estimates, on improving sales of its orthopedic implants. It also reiterated its prior full-year 2013 earnings guidance.

Western Digital (WDC) earned $2.09 per share for its fiscal second quarter, beating estimates by 27 cents. Revenues were also above estimates, with the hard disk drive maker's results driven by growth in its enterprise segment.

SanDisk (SNDK) trounced estimates for the fourth quarter with profit of $1.05 per share compared to estimates of $0.76. But the memory chipmaker's shares are coming under pressure because of a disappointing revenue outlook, driven by falling prices.

Symantec (SYMC) is planning to lay off a significant number of managers and reorganize internally, according to a Reuters interview. But CEO Steve Bennett also says the security software maker has decided not to sell off any major assets.

Sony (SNE) has been fined $396,000 by British regulators for insufficient security measures on its PlayStation Network. The fine stems from an April 2011 cyber attack that targeted the network.