Five Things to Watch: Big Cap Bookends and More

ExxonMobil and Microsoft report quarterly earnings, NYSE and J&J explain themselves to shareholders and, for three glorious days, the NFL seems normal. Here's what we're watching…

(AP Photo/Donna McWilliam)
Donna Mcwilliam
(AP Photo/Donna McWilliam)

ExxonMobil Earnings: Shares in energy giant Exxon Mobil reached multi-year highs Wednesday on the strength of a dividend raise. This comes before the company reports quarterly earnings Thursday morning, with analysts projecting EPS of $2.04…or nearly $10 billion in total profits. That astonishing number will be powered, in part, by crude's rise well into triple digits. ExxonMobil has avoided vitriol from Capitol Hill of late. Will fists full of cash on the basis of astronomical oil prices change that?

Windows into Microsoft: While much is made of the tech titan's inability to compete with Apple on the consumer electronics front, the real story for Microsoft is how much money the company is making on its latest Windows OS for PCs and smartphones. This quarter's consensus target? 58 cents a share. Last quarter? They earned plenty, as Microsoft reported a whopping total of 300 million licenses sold since Windows 7's release. No matter, the stock has continued to languish. So, basically, business as usual.

The Fight for NYSE's Future: NYSE Euronext holds its annual shareholders meeting Thursday at, where else, the NYSE. The 800-lb gorilla staring squarely at CEO Duncan Niederauer is the outstanding joint bid from Nasdaq and ICE. While Niederauer is expected to make his case for the alternative Deutsche Boerse deal and likely provide color on merger synergy and cost savings, surrogates on behalf of the rival deal will be on hand to ask questions of him. As CNBC's Bob Pisani notes, he'll be hard-pressed to dodge the most obvious: why won't NYSE Euronext at least meet with Nasdaq and ICE in light of the financially superior offer?

Recall Ramifications: In the wake of dozens of product recalls and a Congressional investigation into its practices, Johnson & Johnson faces shareholders at the company's annual meeting Thursday. CEO William Weldon will be hard-pressed to explain where J&J goes from here and how it can repair the brand damage. Despite recent gains, shares of the pharmaceuticals and consumer products company have treaded water over the last year.

No Labor Deal, No Problem: Despite the recent lockout-lifting injunction, NFL owners continue to play hardball: an appeals process on the horizon and a labor deal nowhere in sight. Notwithstanding the lingering league issues, it'll be lights, camera, action Thursday evening as the NFL Draft begins at Radio City Music Hall. The three-day spectacular is the latest reminder that pro football sits atop the pile of profitable sports leagues. Negotiating a good deal is in both sides' interest. But, will they kill the golden goose in the process?