US Stocks Smashing Records As Dow Aims For 15,000

Records continue to be broken on Wall Street, as the Dow once again sets record intraday and closing highs, and the S&P 500 finally breaks its all-time intraday high for the first time since October 2007. The Dow is now less than 200 points from the 15,000 mark, with earnings season looming as either a catalyst or an impediment.

Investors will be watching today's 8:30 a.m. release of initial jobless claims by the Labor Department, especially after last Friday's disappointing jobs report. Economists expect initial claims to come in at 360,000 for the week ending April 6, compared to 385,000 the prior week.

The Energy Department will release its weekly look at natural gas inventories at 10:30 a.m. ET.

The Treasury will sell $13 billion in 30-year bonds, with the results of that sale coming shortly after 1 p.m. ET.

There are few earnings reports of significance this morning, as investors look ahead to tomorrow's quarterly releases from Wells Fargo (WFC) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM).

J.C. Penney (JCP) is among our stocks to watch today, as investor Bill Ackman tells WWD that he's sticking by his investment in the retailer, despite the departure of the man he championed for the CEO position, Ron Johnson. Ackman's Pershing Square holds 17.8 percent of Penney's stock. Separately, the New York Post reports three more top executives have left – COO Mike Kramer, chief talent officer Daniel Walker, and chief creative officer Mike Fisher.

Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) reported fourth quarter profit of $1.68 per share, in line with Street estimates, with revenues also matching expectations. However, the retailer is predicting current quarter profit of $0.88 - $0.94 per share, short of estimates of $0.95, with sales growing less than anticipated. Bed Bath has been hit by online competition, increasing coupon redemption, and a shift to lower-margin merchandise.

Yum Brands (YUM) saw same-store sales in China drop 13 percent from a year earlier, with a new bird flu outbreak impacting sales. China has been Yum's fastest growing market, and its stock has been hit hard in recent months on occasions when it has reported negative news in China sales.

MetroPCS (PCS) received what Deutsche Telekom calls its "best and final offer" to merge its T-Mobile USA unit with MetroPCS. The new deal sweetens the prior agreement by reducing the amount of debt the combined company would hold by $3.8 billion.

Costco (COST) reported a four percent rise in same-store sales for March, below analyst forecasts of a 5.2 percent rise. Costco was hurt by lower fuel prices and a stronger dollar.

Fortinet (FTNT) is predicting current quarter profit of $0.10 - $0.12 per share, below its prior estimate of $0.11 - $0.12 and analyst forecasts of $0.12. The maker of network security products says it's been hurt by cautious customer spending and a delay in closing deals.

Zumiez (ZUMZ) reported a March same-store sales increase of 2.1 percent, much better than analyst forecasts of a 7.5 percent drop from a year earlier. Zumiez specializes in snowboarding and outdoor apparel.

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Dell (DELL) are among those that could see their stocks impacted by new IDC data, showing personal computer sales were down 14 percent in the first quarter compared to a year earlier.

International Paper (IP) could get a boost from positive comments from Third Point, with investor Daniel Loeb's fund adding to its position during the first quarter. His quarterly investment letter highlights a "compelling case" to own IP shares.

Protective Life (PL) is buying a portfolio of U.S. policies from France's AXA for $1.1 billion. AXA is the owner of long-time U.S. insurance brand Mony, which it bought in 2004.

Microsoft (MSFT) is developing a new line of its Surface tablets, according to the Wall Street Journal. That includes a new 7-inch version, as it tries to keep up with Google and Apple in the smaller tablet market.