Today's Primer

Today's Primer Post

The shortened trading week begins with the stock market essentially running in place, though the S&P 500 continues on a notable streak. Despite moving just 1.86 points higher last week, it rose for a 7th consecutive week. That's the first time the index has been up that many weeks to start a year since 1967.

A very light economic calendar features one widely watched housing market indicator this morning, as the National Association of Home Builders puts out its monthly sentiment index at 10 a.m. New York time. Economists see the index rising to 48 for February from January's 47.

Medical products maker Medtronic (MDT) leads our list of companies out with quarterly earnings this morning, along with Genuine Parts (GPC), NiSource (NI), Sealed Air (SEE), and Windstream (WIN). Computer maker Dell (DELL) will be out with quarterly numbers after today's closing bell, joined by Marriott (MAR), Analog Devices (ADI), CF Industries (CF), and La-Z-Boy (LZB).

Office Depot (ODP) and OfficeMax (OMX) top our list of stocks to watch, as CNBC's Kayla Tausche reports the two are in advanced merger talks. The deal being discussed is an all-stock deal, and is expected to be finalized sometime this week.

Apple (AAPL) will be in court today, facing off against investor David Einhorn. Einhorn wants a judge to block a shareholder vote on Apple's proposal to require shareholder approval to issue preferred shares.

Wynn Resorts (WYNN) will be allowed to hold a special shareholder meeting this week to oust dissident shareholder Kuzuo Okada from its board of directors. A judge blocked a bid by Okada late Friday to prevent the meeting.

Novartis (NVS) says its outgoing chairman Daniel Vasella will cancel a deal under which he could have earned up to $78 million for not advising competitors. Vasella will be stepping down at the company's annual meeting later this week and his exit deal had been widely criticized.

Monsanto (MON) will be before the Supreme Court today in a widely followed patent case involving its "Roundup" brand weed killer.

Microsoft (MSFT) will launch today, its new online email service that escalates the fight against rivals such as Google, Yahoo, and AOL. Microsoft's Hotmail and MSN users will be converted to the new service by the summer.

Burger King Worldwide (BKW) is issuing an apology after its Twitter account was hacked Monday. The hackers posted obscene messages and changed the account's profile picture to a McDonald's logo.

The fire aboard Carnival's (CCL) Triumph cruise ship that caused its electrical outage last week was caused by a leak in a fuel oil line, according to the Coast Guard.

Express Scripts (ESRX) earned $1.05 per share, excluding certain items, for the fourth quarter, three cents above estimates, with revenues also slightly above consensus. The pharmacy benefit manager was helped by more use of generic drugs as well as its acquisition of Medco Health Solutions last year.

Herbalife (HLF) remains in the news, with CNBC's Scott Wapner reporting that hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb has sold part of his long position in the nutrition company. Sources tell Wapner that Loeb began selling a few weeks ago, although he maintains a position in the nutrition company.

Google (GOOG) is developing plans to launch retail stores in the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal. But the paper says it isn't clear when the stores might open.