U.S. stock index futures are pointing to further gains this morning, adding to the Dow's first record close in nearly 5-1/2 years. The major averages have now risen for three straight sessions, and the S&P 500 is now about 25 points away from its own all-time closing high, set in October 2007.
Two key economic events on the calendar are likely to determine if the market's winning ways continue. At 8:15 a.m. New York time, ADP will release its monthly snapshot of private sector employment, with economists looking for the U.S. economy to have added 178,000 new private sector jobs in February following January's rise of 192,000. And at 2 p.m., the Federal Reserve will be out with its Beige Book, the region-by-region assessment of the U.S. economy.
The government will also issue January factory orders at 10 a.m., with consensus forecasts calling for a drop of 2.1 percent after December's 1.8 percent increase.
Weekly reports out today include the Mortgage Bankers Association's look at mortgage applications, as well as the Energy Department's assessment of oil and gasoline inventories at 10:30 a.m.
Office supplies retailer Staples (SPLS) is among the companies out with quarterly earnings this morning, along with retailer Big Lots (BIG) and spirits maker Brown-Forman (BF.B). Pet supplies seller PetSmart (PETM) will be out with its earnings after today's closing bell.
J.C. Penney (JCP) leads our list of stocks to watch, as Citi downgrades the retailer to "neutral" from "buy" and cuts its price target to $15 per share from $22. Citi says it's now more concerned about how long it will take the company to return to topline growth, following a visit with Penney executives.
Toyota (TM) has chosen former General Motors executive Mark Hogan to its board of directors, the first board member Toyota has ever appointed from outside Japan.
Ford (F) CEO Alan Mulally has been awarded performance bonuses worth almost $12 million, according to an SEC filing. The award comes in the form of shares that were worth $11.7 million based on Tuesday's closing price, though the final value will depend on when Mulally actually sells them.
Google (GOOG) has reportedly struck a licensing deal with Warner Music for two music services it will launch later this summer, according to Billboard magazine. Separately, Google is testing same-day delivery service with various retailers, a move onto turf long dominated by Amazon.com (AMZN).
Apple (AAPL) is said to have held talks with audio technology firm Beats Electronics about a potential partnership involving Beats' planned music streaming service. Reuters says Apple CEO Tim Cook met with Beats CEO Jimmy Iovine last month to explore the idea.
Microsoft (MSFT) will be fined today for violating its pledge to provide Windows users in Europe a choice of internet browsers, according to Reuters. The fine is expected to amount to hundreds of millions of euros.
J.M. Smucker (SJM) has signed a sponsorship deal with the U.S. Olympic Committee. Financial terms of the deal, which runs through 2016, were not disclosed.