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Market holds its breath ahead of earnings, details on tax reform

IN THE NEWS TODAY

Stock index futures are modestly higher this morning after a mixed Wednesday session that saw another record close for the Dow, declines for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq, and little reaction to the minutes of the most recent Fed policy meeting. (CNBC)

Investors are waiting for updates on tax reform from Washington and further indications of whether the Fed is ready to pull the trigger on another interest rate hike at its March meeting. (CNBC)

Oil prices ticked up after surprising U.S. data showed a decrease in inventories, suggesting that OPEC's agreement to cut production may be ending the worldwide glut. (Reuters)

President Donald Trump will meet with the leaders of five companies that are shifting operations abroad to seek guidance on how to create jobs and keep manufacturing in the United States. (Reuters)

Trump said he wants the federal government to be more accountable and do "more with less" at a lunch with Treasury and budget officials. (Reuters)

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box" that he expects "very significant" tax reform focused on tax cuts for the middle class and businesses enacted before Congress' August recess. (CNBC)

A Mexican official called new U.S. immigration guidelines "hostile," straining already tense relations between the two countries as Trump administration officials arrive in Mexico City for talks on immigration. (WSJ)

Apple came out against Trump's decision to rescind protections relating to bathroom use by transgender students in public schools, becoming the first tech company to publicly disagree with the move. (Recode)

Ivanka Trump advocated on Capitol Hill for a child care expense deduction to be included in Congress' tax code overhaul, but the plan's $500 billion price tag could make it a hard sell among lawmakers. (Bloomberg)

The Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, returns to Washington this week, with Vice President Mike Pence, Kellyanne Conway, Stephen Bannon, Reince Priebus and Trump lined up as speakers. (USA Today)

Elon Musk's solar panel installation company, SolarCity, sold long-term contracts to homeowners just before and even after they defaulted on their mortgages, The New York Times reported.

Carlos Ghosn, longtime CEO of Nissan who saved the automaker from near-collapse, will leave his current post to oversee Nissan's alliances with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors. (Reuters)

The SpaceX Dragon cargo ship will try to reach the International Space Station again after incorrect data about the ship's destination prevented it from taking off Wednesday. (USA Today)

As the smartphone industry continues to mature, Apple's 10th anniversary iPhone launch this fall will be highly anticipated, but not necessarily groundbreaking, Reuters reports.

BY THE NUMBERS

Today's lone government economic report comes at 8:30 a.m. ET, when the Labor Department issues its weekly look at initial jobless claims. Economists are expecting 240,000 new claims for the week ended Feb. 18, barely changed from the prior week's 239,000.

There are two Fed-related events Thursday, with speeches from Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart and Dallas Fed President Rob Kaplan. Kaplan is a voting member of the FOMC, while Lockhart is retiring at month's end and will focus his speech on his 10-year tenure.

Earnings reports out this morning include the latest quarterly numbers from Apache (APA), Chesapeake Energy (CHK), Hormel (HRL), Kohl's (KSS), LendingTree (TREE), Sanderson Farms (SAFM), Sprouts Farmers Market (SFM), Visteon (VC) and Wayfair (W).

After-the-bell reports Thursday will come from Baidu (BIDU), Brocade (BRCD), Gap (GPS), Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Intuit (INTU), Nordstrom (JWN) and Splunk (SPLK).

STOCKS TO WATCH

HP Inc. (HPQ) is among our stocks to watch, reporting adjusted quarterly profit of 38 cents per share, 1 cent above estimates, while the computer hardware maker's revenue also beat forecasts. HP's results were helped by a rebound in the personal computer business, with sales rising for a second straight quarter.

Tesla (TSLA) reported a wider-than-expected loss of 69 cents per share, compared with the consensus estimate for a 43 cent loss. But the automaker's revenue beat forecasts, and it said its new Model 3 sedan was on track for volume production by September. Separately, Tesla announced that CFO Jason Wheeler will leave the company in April, to be succeeded by former CFO Deepak Ahuja.

Square (SQ) lost 4 cents per share for its latest quarter, smaller than the 9 cents forecast by analysts, while the mobile payments company's revenue came in slightly above estimates. Square saw a better than 34 percent jump in payment volume compared with a year earlier.

Fitbit (FIT) reported a quarterly loss of 56 cents per share, 6 cents wider than expected, while the wearable fitness device maker's revenue fell short of estimates. The company's bottom line was hurt by weaker-than-expected holiday sales of its latest fitness trackers. It was Fitbit's first quarterly loss since going public in June 2015.

Jack In The Box (JACK) missed estimates by 7 cents with adjusted quarterly profit of $1.18 per share, and the restaurant chain's revenue fell short of forecasts as well. The results were impacted by lower-than-expected sales at the company's Qdoba Mexican Grill chain, and Jack In The Box cut its full-year earnings forecast.

Cheesecake Factory (CAKE) matched estimates with adjusted quarterly profit of 67 cents per share, while the restaurant chain's revenue beat Street forecasts and comparable restaurant sales rose 1.1 percent.

L Brands (LB) beat estimates by 13 cents with adjusted quarterly profit of $2.03 per share. However, the Victoria's Secret parent saw revenue miss estimates, and it also gave weaker-than-expected guidance for the full year on slowing demand at its biggest brand.

Barclays (BCS) reported an unexpected rise in its core capital ratio, with that key metric climbing to 12.4 percent compared with expectations for 11.8 percent. The bank set aside more money to cover possible costs of legal issues and global market conditions.

Wells Fargo (WFC) may be hit up for legal costs by Prudential Financial (PRU), according to an SEC filing by the insurance company. The dispute centers around whether Wells Fargo retail bankers improperly sold Prudential's insurance.

Boston Beer (SAM) gave a weaker-than-expected full-year forecast, and said it was disappointed with weak depletion rates. Those rates measure the speed at which beer is delivered from distributors to retail stores.

WATERCOOLER

The red Xs popping up on celebrities' and athletes' social media accounts mark the fifth annual "Shine a Light on Slavery Day," a day started by the End It Movement to raise awareness about modern-day slavery. (USA Today)

Starting in April, McDonald's customers will be able to buy soft drinks for as little as $1, the fast food giant announced. (USA Today)