Unusual Division in Global Markets Today

Unusual bifurcation in global markets today: Asian markets down across the board (many are in correction mode, more on that later), European markets up across the board. German IFO business confidence jumped the highest since April; a similar survey in France was also strong.

Street applauds GE earnings. GE trading up as much as 5 percent for first time since April of last year. CNBC's (soon to be former) corporate parent General Electric reported earnings of $0.36, ahead of consensus of $0.32. Perhaps more importantly, revenue of $41.38 billion was well ahead of expectations of $39.9 billion and ahead of every single analyst estimate. That is impressive. Most importantly, order trends are clearly improving.

Deutsche Bank called it "arguably their best quarter since 2007." J.P. Morgan called it "among the most encouraging results we have seen in some time."


1) strategists keep raising earnings estimates: the latest is Ed Hyman at ISI, who raised his earnings estimate for the S&P 500 to $97. The average estimate is $94; if you put a typical 15X multiple on that, it is easy to see why many strategists are expecting the S&P 500 to hit 1,400 this year.

2) Schlumberger is up 3 percent after beating estimates ($0.85 vs. $0.77 consensus). Oil and nat gas activity in North America increased as demand rebounded. Oil had its second largest demand increase in the last 30 years and looks to have "a further healthy increase" in 2011. Nat gas demand recovery, however, "has been less marked."

The company also boosted its quarterly dividend by 19 percent to $0.25.

2) Bank of America reported earnings of $0.04 ex-items. The card business is making money again...credit loss provisions were half what they were last year, and chargeoffs were down as well.

Suntrust reported earnings of $0.23, well ahead of expectations, also reported lower loan losses, and provisions for credit losses are also much lower than the prior quarter.

3) Jones Group drops 6 percent after announcing disappointing preliminary Q4 earnings of $0.02 (vs. $0.11 consensus). Although sales were "strong" in the quarter, the apparel retailer's margins suffered amid higher costs and greater discounting.

Looking ahead, earnings sales are expected to grow mid-single digits. However, CEO Wesley Card cautions improvement in margins will be a challenge due to further cost increases and the uncertainty of customers accepting price increases.

4) Hewlett-Packard is up fractionally after announcing that four of its board members will be leaving. In addition to replacing those people, the tech giant will also add an additional seat to its board. The turnover comes less than six months after former CEO Mark Hurd abruptly left the company and was granted a generous severance package by the Board.

5) Shares of Micron jump 4 percent after the computer memory maker was upgraded to buy at UBS on expectations of improving DRAM pricing and supply. The firm's price target was also boosted to $12 from $7.50.

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