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Ahead of earnings season, will investors blink?

IN THE NEWS TODAY

U.S. stock futures were higher this morning, while oil prices were lower. U.S. crude surged nearly 8 percent last week. But stocks suffered their worst week since February, as investors look ahead to earnings season. Stocks in Europe and Asia today were mixed. (CNBC)

President Barack Obama is expected to meet today with Fed Chair Janet Yellen to discuss the economy and Wall Street reform. The meeting comes as U.S. central bankers grapple with whether to hike interest rates again, after increasing them in December. (Reuters)

Meanwhile, two Fed officials make public appearances today. New York Fed President Bill Dudley speaks in New York this morning just before the Wall Street open, while Dallas Fed President Rob Kaplan delivers a lunchtime address in Louisiana.

Negative interest rates, adopted in Japan and Europe, have helped boost demand and supported stable prices by supplementing conventional monetary stimulus, according to the International Monetary Fund in a new report. (Reuters)

BlackRock chief Larry Fink, head of the world's largest asset management group, takes the opposite view, warning negative rates risk hitting consumer spending and undermining the economic growth they're intended to encourage. (FT)

The parent company of the Daily Mail is reportedly in talks with private equity firms about a possible bid for Yahoo (YHOO). The U.K. conglomerate is said to be one of about 40 companies expressing interest in the struggling Internet firm. (WSJ)

After two years of heavy legal and financial consequences, General Motors (GM) has started to win lawsuits related to the gravest safety crisis in its history, the recall of 2.6 million small cars with faulty ignition switches. (NY Times)

The terrorists who struck Brussels last month initially planned to launch a second assault in France. But the perpetrators, feeling the "speed of the progress" by authorities, decided to rush an attack on the Belgian capital instead. (AP)

CIA Director John Brennan told NBC News the agency would not engage in "enhanced interrogation" practices, including waterboarding, even if ordered to by a future president. GOP front-runner Donald Trump has said if elected, he'd authorize the use of the harsh techniques.

Paul Manafort, who just assumed an expanded role in Trump's campaign, raised questions about the "gestapo tactics" of GOP presidential rival Ted Cruz. Manafort told "Meet the Press" the Cruz campaign is not playing by the rules to secure delegates. (NBC News)

In a stark warning for Trump as he looks to a possible general election showdown with Hillary Clinton, Americans trust the Democratic front-runner more on issues from immigration to nominating Supreme Court justices. That's according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

The departure of hedge fund manager David Tepper from New Jersey to Florida has spurred Garden State lawmakers to call for a change in the state's tax structure. Meanwhile, a key legislative forecaster raised concerns over revenue uncertainty. (AP)

BY THE NUMBERS

There are no major profit reports out this morning, but Alcoa (AA), often viewed as the start of earnings season, is out with its quarterly numbers after the closing bell this afternoon.

In the coming week, the major banks — JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Bank of America (BAC), Wells Fargo (WFC), and Citigroup (C) — report earnings, and engage in the quarterly game of trying to beat the lowered bar. S&P 500 earnings are expected to decline for the third quarter in row.

In advance of the busy summer driving season, gasoline prices gained 8 cents to around $2.10 per gallon in the past three weeks, according to the latest Lundberg survey.


STOCKS TO WATCH

United Continental (UAL) is forecasting a decline of up to 7.75 percent in its revenue per available passenger seat mile, hurt by a strong dollar and a decline in travel by customers whose businesses were impacted by lower oil prices.

SAP (SAP) said first-quarter results for the business software maker would be weaker than expected, on a slower pace of sales of software licenses to corporate customers.

Seagate Technology (STX) got a positive mention in Barron's, which said the hard disk drive maker's 7.6 percent yield is enticing and that it would benefit from increased demand for large drives used in data centers.

Toll Brothers (TOL) could climb to $40 per share or more from Friday's close near $29, according to Barron's, which points to the home builder's successful expansion into the New York City luxury condominium market.

General Electric (GE) is planning an initial public offering for its Czech banking business, according to the Financial Times. GE would retain a significant minority stake in the unit.

McDonald's (MCD) has put its Korean unit up for sale and hired Morgan Stanley to seek out potential buyers, according to a Korean newspaper. The fast food giant also put its Japanese unit up for sale last year.

WATERCOOLER

American Jordan Spieth self-destructed on the back nine to gift the Masters to Danny Willett, the Englishman's first major victory. Gasps of disbelief rumbled around Amen Corner Sunday as defending champion Spieth, dropped six shots during a three-hole stretch. (Reuters)

Melissa McCarthy's star power lifted "The Boss" to a $23.5 million debut weekend, despite bad reviews and rough word-of-mouth. The R-rated comedy narrowly toppled "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice." (Variety)