Today's Primer

Today's Primer Post

U.S. stock investors appear to be pausing to consider whether or not the recent rally should continue, with small moves for the major averages distinguishing Wednesday trading. The Dow's seven point advance was its first single-digit move in almost two months, in contrast to mid-October, when it did so five times in eleven sessions.

Today is the busiest day of a relatively light week for economic data, beginning with two reports at 8:30 a.m. New York time. The Labor Department's weekly report on initial jobless claims is expected to show a drop of 8,000 for the week ending February 1 to a total of 360,000, while fourth quarter productivity is seen registering a 1.6 percent annual rate drop compared to the third quarter's 2.9 percent increase.

At 10:30 a.m., the Energy Department is out with its weekly look at natural gas inventories, and at 3 p.m., the government issues December consumer credit figures, seen rising by $12 billion dollars compared to November's $16 billion increase.

Both the Bank of England (7 a.m.) and the European Central Bank (7:45 a.m.) are set to issue their latest policy statements following their regular meetings this morning.

Insurer Cigna (CI) is among the companies set to issue quarterly earnings this morning, along with Starwood Hotels (HOT), Sprint Nextel (S), Snap-On (SNA), Teradata (TDA), and Philip Morris (PM), while Activision Blizzard (ATVI), Hasbro (HAS), and Republic Services (RSG) are scheduled to be out with their reports after the closing bell this afternoon.

Yahoo (YHOO) leads our list of stocks to watch, as it strikes an ad partnership with rival Google (GOOG). Yahoo will use Google technology to target ads relevant to content being displayed.

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is increasing its quarterly dividend by 9 percent to $0.19 per share.

News Corp. (NWSA) reported second quarter profit of $0.44 per share, excluding certain items, one cent above estimates, with revenues beating consensus. However, the media company also cut its profit outlook as its Sky Italia, Fox Network, and Australian newspaper divisions weigh on overall results.

Visa (V) earned $1.82 per share for its fiscal first quarter, three cents above estimates. It was the 9th straight quarter that Visa beat Street consensus, on the strength of payment volume growth. Visa also authorized a new $1.75 billion stock buyback program.

Green Mountain Coffee (GMCR) reported fiscal first quarter earnings of $0.76 per share, 11 cents above estimates, but it's forecasting current quarter sales growth below analyst estimates. The maker of the Keurig single-cup coffee system now says sales will growth by 14 to 18 percent for the current quarter, somewhat below what the Street had expected.

Yelp (YELP) lost $0.08 per share for the fourth quarter, wider than the loss of $0.05 analysts had been forecasting. Investors have been worried about the online review website's prospects after Facebook (FB) introduced its new feature "graph search" which will compete with Yelp's offerings.

Allstate (ALL) earned $0.59 per share for the fourth quarter. While that's likely not directly comparable with analyst estimates of a loss of $0.05 per share, its revenues did beat estimates, and the insurer also announced an additional $1 billion stock buyback and a 14 percent dividend increase. Catastrophe losses did jump to $1.06 billion for the quarter from $66 million the prior year, thanks mostly to the impact of superstorm Sandy.

Tesoro (TSO) reported fourth quarter profit of $1.34 per share, three cents below estimates. The oil refiner did beat revenue estimates, and also raised its dividend by 33% to $0.20 per share.

Akamai Technologies (AKAM) reported fourth quarter profit of $0.54 per share, excluding certain items, four cents above estimates. However, the internet services company's revenues came in below estimates, primarily due to weaker demand from e-commerce companies. Its current quarter revenue outlook is also below Street consensus.

Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) CEO Ben Verwaayen is leaving the telecommunications equipment maker, after the company reported a $1.85 billion loss last year. He'll stay in the job until a successor is found.

Ark Restaurants (ARKR) is being bought by fellow restaurant chain Landry's for $22 per share or $71.3 million. The offer represents a 22 percent premium over yesterday's close for Ark shareholders.

U.S. Airways Group (LCC) and American Airlines parent AMR are reportedly close to a merger agreement that would create the world's largest airline, according to the Wall Street Journal.