Stocks are tentative ahead of the opening bell on this final trading day of the first quarter. There are some key data releases this morning including personal income and spending, personal consumption, February construction spending, Chicago purchasing managers and University of Michigan consumer sentiment. Oil is on the rise again and could continue to be a pressure point on stock prices after its big move up yesterday.
For those watching ethanol plays, our Scott Cohn will report on the crop report due out this morning. It is closely watched in the grain pits and should show how much acreage farmers will devote to corn versus other crops this year.
PROGRESS? It's been a week since Iran detained 15 British sailors. One of the sailors today apologized for entering Iran's waters without permission though Britain has claimed they were in Iraqi waters. The British government, meanwhile, says it is giving serious consideration to a letter from Iran that seems to offer hope for ending the standoff.
SMELL AT DELLCorporate headlines could also influence the market. Some of them are coming out of Dell, which has been struggling to stem declines in its pc business and now reveals more about its accounting issues. Dell stock is moving lower after it said late yesterday that it has found misconduct as a result of an internal probe into its accounting. It will therefore delay its 10k report as it continues its examination. Dell found deficiencies in its financial control environment and a number of accounting errors.
SIZZLE AT THE SEC This has been a week for late day regulatory filings, as companies reveal all kinds of titbits investors need to know. Dell spilled its bad news after the bell, and Beazer late yesterday acknowledged in an SEC filing that it received a grand jury subpoena from the Justice Department for documents related to its mortgage business. Earlier in the week, TJX slipped out that, oops, there were 45.7 million credit card and debit card numbers that were stolen from its computer systems over several years. We'll be watching today to see what other unhappy footnotes slip out as companies sweep out bad news ahead of the first quarter earnings season.
SHAREHOLDER COUP Take Two institutional shareholders late yesterday succeeded in tossing out the board and putting in six new directors. Separately, former SEC Chairman Richard Breeden commenting on activist investing in the Financial Times, said he believes it is good for the economy and competitiveness and provides an opportunity for problems to be fixed at earlier stages.
Ford and GM are asking Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to pressure Japan on the yen, according to the Financial Times. They claim the Japanese auto makers have an unfair advantage because of the currency's weakness.