October off to positive start despite government shutdown

Despite continued concern over the shutdown of the U.S. government, Wall Street's streak of positive starts to the month is intact. U.S. stocks have not fallen on the first trading day of a month since May, although stock index futures are pointing to a slightly negative start this morning. Tuesday's gains marked just the second positive session in the past nine for the Dow and the S&P 500.

Investors will be focused this morning on the ADP report on private sector employment, due out at 8:15 a.m. ET. The report takes on even more significance than usual, since the government's September employment report will not be issued on Friday as scheduled if the shutdown continues. Economists are looking for 178,000 new private sector jobs for last month, compared to 176,000 in August.

The Mortgage Bankers Association will issue its weekly report on mortgage applications at 7 a.m. ET, and despite the government shutdown, the Energy Department will be out with its regular Wednesday look at oil and gasoline inventories at 10:30 a.m. ET.

The earnings calendar remains light today, with Monsanto (MON) the only company of note scheduled to issue quarterly numbers. Monsanto is expected to be out with its numbers at 8 a.m. ET.

Kraft Foods Group (KRFT) is among our stocks to watch today, as the food and beverage producer raises its quarterly dividend by 5 percent to 52-1/2 cents per share. The dividend hike comes on the one year anniversary of its split from the old Kraft Foods, now known as Mondelez International (MDLZ).

Microsoft (MSFT) is seeing some unrest from large shareholders, with Reuters reporting that three of the top 20 investors are pushing for chairman Bill Gates to step down. Microsoft declined comment on the report.

Global Payments (GPN) reported fiscal first quarter profit of $1.00 per share, five cents above estimates. The credit card processor's revenue also beat consensus, and the company raised its full year forecast as well. Additionally, company president Jeffrey Sloan has been named chief executive, effective immediately.

Wells Fargo (WFC) is being sued by New York State, with attorney general Eric Schneiderman accusing the bank of not complying with the terms of last year's national mortgage settlement.

AstraZeneca (AZN) will face competition in the U.S. for its best-selling reflux drug Nexium, after a court lifted a temporary block on a similar drug produced by South Korea's Hanmi Pharmaceutical.

Apple (AAPL) is reportedly facing delays in production of a new version of its iPad mini, according to Reuters. The report said Apple won't be able to roll out a retina display version this month because of delays in the supply chain.

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is in the final stages of talks to sell its cocoa unit to privately held Cargill, according to Reuters. Financial terms of the potential deal have not been revealed, although some analysts have put the unit's value at as much as $2 billion.

J.C. Penney (JCP) has been sued by shareholder Alan Marcus over its decision to issue more than $810 million in stock via a secondary offering. Marcus accused the retailer of knowing it needed more money even while saying that it saw no need to raise new capital.