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Easy come, easy go: Early Facebook, Apple cheer quickly sours

Traders work the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
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That certainly didn't last long. Investors liked what they saw on Thursday, sending S&P futures up 8 points after the close yesterday on Facebook's and Apple's first quarter earnings.

Yet Wall Street opened on a soft note after a barrage of earnings and data couldn't sustain the bounce provided by the two tech giants. This is the biggest earnings day of the quarter; some 64 S&P 500 constituents report today, according to Credit Suisse.

Read MoreFacebook earnings 34 cents a share: CFO steps down

So far, about 200 companies have reported in the S&P 500 (40 percent). Sixty-eight percent are beating on earnings, slightly above average, but earnings growth is pretty meager so far—up 0.68 percent for the quarter. Revenue growth will be about 3 percent.

Confusion over GM earnings

Caterpillar did better than expected, even raising its outlook. Elsewhere, 3M missed on top and bottom line, despite organic growth of 4.6 percent, partly due to effects of foreign exchange. Organic growth was good in its healthcare segment (6.2 percent) and decent in industrial (4.9 percent) and consumer (2.6 percent).

Dow Transports were at an intraday all-time high yesterday after Delta's excellent earnings yesterday. We'll see if that holds, particularly since UPS missed , blaming unusually harsh weather. Southwest reported earnings slightly above expectations on lower fuel costs.

ETrade became the latest discount broker to report a surge in customer trading, following on similar reports from Charles Schwab and AmeriTrade.

Stanley Black & Decker beat and raised the low end of its 2014 guidance. Sales were up 7 percent year-over-year, with organic growth of 4 percent. The Construction & Do-It-Yourself division, which is the power tool business, is continuing strong, with organic sales up 7 percent year-over-year. That supports the idea that the home improvement market is holding together quite well.

The Industrial segment, which mostly sells industrial and automotive repair tools, was strong as well, with organic growth of 5 percent. The one weak spot was Security, which was down 4 percent, mostly on weak volume in Europe.

However, homebuilders came in fairly mixed. Pulte and Ryland were a bit light on earnings, but DR Horton beat on top and bottom line,. The company benefited from strong sales in Texas. Orders for DHI were up 9 percent, and Ryland rose 6.6 percent, but Pulte's were down 6 percent.. Yesterday Meritage Homes missed on the top and bottom line.

The bottom line: companies are still reporting better trends that the top-line government data reported yesterday. Another point: prices are still going up, offsetting somewhat weaker orders. Ryland said average prices were up 18.1 percent; DR Horton and Pulte noted average sales prices were up 10 percent. This enables most of them to grow margins even if orders were somewhat weaker.


The rumored talks between General Electric and French power generation and train maker Alstom may also help convince many that a new wave of mergers and acquisitions is coming, outside of the many deals that have been announced in healthcare.

No matter that Alstom has said they are not aware of any offers; it's a perfect fit, with GE potentially expanding into the passenger rail service and power generation.