Stocks are flat ahead of the opening, though stock markets worldwide are springing higher on the back of Wall Street's gains Wednesday. The focus today is on the Fed.
Final first-quarter GDP rose at an annual rate of 0.7%, the government reported before the bell, a little lower than the 0.8% rate anticipated. Jobless claims fell in line with expectations.
CNBC's Bob Pisani said it was the quarter's end that impacted markets yesterday as investors shuffled portfolios ahead of the end of trading tomorrow. The Dow rose 90 points after starting out the day in a funk. The S&P was up 13 points and the Nasdaq, lifted by buying in chips and other techs, rose an outsized 31 points or 1.2%.
Buying in Treasurys continued to drive rates lower and the 10-year stood at 5.072%. This morning its yield is 5.08% .
Oil is higher after gaining $1.20 per barrel yesterday, rising to $68.97 .
"There's no particular reason why the stock market turned around (yesterday). It's definitely end of the quarter related. It's unusually noticeable, much more so than most end-of-quarters," says Pisani from the New York Stock Exchange.
Pisani points to interesting action yesterday in the semiconductor stocks. The SMH, the Semiconductor Holders Trust ETF closed in on a 52-week high on very heavy volume.
"These are momentum traders. They're following the money," he said. But this morning, there was some bad news in the chip arena. Novellus warned on profit and also says it sees weakening semiconductor equipment demand.
Stock traders are waiting for the Fed and expect no rate action today. But at 2:15 pm New York time, when the Fed issues a statement after its two-day meeting, they are hoping it changes its language on inflation which currently says core inflation is somewhat elevated.
"The one thing they want from the Fed is they want that word out. The want 'elevated' out of the statement," Pisani said. "If that sentence comes out, the market will rally."
Is It a Big Deal?
Carl Icahn's prediction that private equity deals have peaked rings through the market today as two major newspapers, the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times each have high-profile stories about a chilling in the market for deal debt. The Journal says banks struggled to find buyers for several takeover-related debt offerings after U.S. Foodservice delayed a bond offering Tuesday for lack of buyers.
The FT says companies are pulling financing deals around the globe. The FT says buyers are demanding higher premiums and more protection. So, perhaps Icahn, who spoke at the Wall Street Journal's Deals conference yesterday, is on to something. The question for the market is will it just be the marginal deals falling off the table, or will it be a broader decline?
Meanwhile, we do note that CNBC's breaking news desk ace Peter Schacknow reported in his blog yesterday that there was a fairly unusual, heavy midweek deal volume after a poor showing of merger news on recent Mondays. He aptly names his column, "Welcome to Wheel-and-Deal Wednesday."
Speaking of blogs, we look forward to hearing what movie Bear Stearns' Richard Marin might be seeing this weekend. The New York Times uncovered a posting in Marin's blog whimofiron.blogspot.com where he says he "stole away" from the "crisis-hedge-fund-salvation-workaholic-weekend" to catch "Mr. Brooks." He didn't like the movie.
Marin runs the area of Bear Stearns responsible for the two hedge funds. The spillover from those damaged funds harpooned Bear Stearns stock earlier this week and caused a sea of chop in the stock market. In fact, it may now be helping to chill credit markets.
Up and Down Wall Street
Big tech names are getting some attention this morning. Lehman likes Intel this morning and upgraded it to "overweight" from "equal weight." Cisco was upgraded to "buy" from "neutral" at Merrill.