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Wall St. Breakfast's Pre-Market Snapshot:

U.S. Futures As of 8:45 AM EST

S&P 500: -4.30; 1,511.30
NASDAQ 100: -6.25; 1,906.00
Dow: -35.00; 13,349.00

International Indexes

Asia
NIKKEI 225: -0.06%; 17,736.96 (-11.16)
HANG SENG: -0.47%; 20,746.27 (-98.51)
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Europe
FTSE 100: -0.37%; 6,525.10 (-24.50)
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Commodity Futures (Reuters/Jefferies CRB)

Oil: +0.65%; $61.95 (+$0.40)
Gold: -0.53%; $678.90 (-$3.60)
Natural Gas: +0.39%; $7.75 (+$0.03)
Silver: -0.74%; $13.37 (-$0.10)

U.S. Breaking Newssee today's Wall Street Breakfast for earlier news

April Same-Store Sales Roundup

Most retailers announced April same-store sales Thursday. According to Thomson Financial, 79% of them missed expectations. We'll start with the winners:

  • Costco same-store sales rose 7% vs. analyst estimates of 6.3%. U.S. sales were up 6% while international sales gained 10%. Total sales rose 12% to $4.94 billion. The company said the month's one extra day gave sales a 2% lift.
  • Saks Inc. sales at stores open one year jumped 11.7%, vs. estimates of 6.7%. Total sales gained 13.1% to $281 million. The company said almost all its merchandise performed well.
  • Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. same-store sales jumped 7.3%, vs. a projected gain of 0.7%.
  • Nordstrom Inc. same-store sales rose 3.1%, vs. analyst estimates of an 4.2% gain. Total sales were up from $585 million to $604 million.
  • WalMart Inc. same-store sales dropped 3.5% in April, vs. analyst estimates of a 1.1% drop. Total sales rose from $25.63 billion to $26.57 billion. Sam's Club same-store sales gained 2.5%, in-line with analyst estimates. Net of Sam's Club gains, WalMart same-store sales actually fell 4.6% for the month. The company said cold weather hurt sales. It sees 1-2% gains in May.
  • Gap same-store sales fell 16%, vs. analyst estimates of -7.1%. Total sales fell 11% to $1.09b. The company said merchandise margins were down because of clearance selling at Gap stores. It forecast Q1 EPS of $0.23-0.25; analysts had been calling for $0.24.
  • Target Corp. same-store sales fell 6.1%. Net sales fell 1.8% to $3.9b. It said it still sees EPS on the year on target at $3.60.
  • Limited Brands Inc. same-store sales dropped 1%, vs. estimates of a 0.6% drop. Total sales climbed from $653m to $688m.
  • Abercrombie & Fitch same-store sales fell 15%, vs. estimates of 4.7%. It forecast Q1 EPS of $0.64-0.65, saying, ""Despite difficult selling conditions, the company expects to achieve its projected growth primarily through prudent expense management."
  • Federated Department Stores same-store sales fell 2.2%, vs. consensus estimates of a 1.7% gain and its own forecast of 2.5-4%. Total sales fell 2.1% to $1.84 billion.
  • J.C. Penney Company Inc. sales at department stores open at least one year fell 4.7%, vs. analyst estimates of a 0.8% drop. Total sales dropped 2.7% to $1.13 billion. The company said apparel did comparatively well, while big ticket items were soft. It expects flat same-store sales for May.
  • Kohl's Corp. same-store sales fell 10.5% vs. an expected 6.6% drop. Total sales were up 11.8%. The company is comfortable with current EPS estimates of $0.62.
  • Pacific Sunwear same-store sales fell 16.5%, vs. analyst expectations of a 6.5% loss. Total sales fell to $79 million from $85 million. The company forecasts a Q1 EPS loss of $0.04-0.05, and a Q2 EPS loss of $0.18-0.20.
  • Bebe Stores Inc. same-store sales fell 6.5% vs. analyst estimates of -6.2%.
  • Claire's Stores Inc. sales at stores open at least one year fell 6%, vs. analyst estimates of a 2% drop. Total sales rose 1% to $105 million.
  • American Eagle Outfitters Inc. sales at stores open over one year dropped 10%, vs. analyst estimates of a 1.3% gain. It reiterated Q1 EPS forecasts of $0.34-0.35.
  • Sharper Image Corp. same-store sales fell 11%. Total sales tumbled 36% to $21 million. It is the company's 30th straight month in decline.
  • Aeropostale Inc. same-store sales fell 14%, vs. estimates of -2.5%. Net sales dropped 9.8% to $75m. The company boosted Q1 EPS forecasts to $0.24-0.25, up from $0.22-0.23.
  • Bon-Ton Stores same-store sales dropped 13.4%, vs. estimates of a 9.3% decrease. Total sales fell 13.7% to $212 million. The company called April's numbers 'disappointing,' especially for clothing.
  • AnnTaylor Stores sales at stores open at least a year fell 12.8%, vs. consensus estimates of 4% drop. Net sales dropped 6.2% to $200 million. The company reaffirmed full-year guidance of $2.15-2.25/share.
  • Family Dollar Stores same-store sales were down 4.9%, vs. estimates of -4%. Total sales fell 1.6% to $481 million. Sales of home products were up, while apparel and seasonals were soft.
  • Fred's Inc. same-store sales fell 2.5%, vs. estimates of a 0.4% gain. Total sales gained 1% to $127 million. The company said April sales were hurt by an early Easter, high gas prices, and cold weather.
  • Stein Mart Inc. same-store sales dropped 13.9%, vs. estimates of a 3.7% drop. Total sales fell from $124 million to $109 million. The company revised Q1 EPS estimates down to $0.17; analysts had been looking for $0.22.
  • BJ's Wholesale Club Inc. same-store sales fell 2.1%, vs. estimates of a 0.9% gain. Net sales were up 1.9% to $618 million.
  • Chico's FAS Inc. same-store sales fell 7.3%, vs. -0.6% anticipated.
Noting the "rampant misses and lowered earnings," Friedman Billings Ramsey analyst Adrienne Tennant said April will mostly be a 'throw-away month:' "We believe investors will give retailers the proverbial free pass." Retailers blamed mitigating factors like weather, gas prices, and an early Easter. But analyst Jennifer Black says there's more to it: "The overall product assortment was not compelling... Fashion trends continue to have had a mixed response with no real trend focus."
Sources: MarketWatch I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX, XX, XXI, XXII, XXIII, XXIV
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Pacific Sunwear of California Inc. (PSUN), bebe stores inc. (BEBE), Nordstrom Inc. (JWN), Claire's Stores Inc. (CLE), Limited Brands Inc. (LTD), Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST), Saks Inc. (SKS), American Eagle Outfitters Inc. (AEOS), Sharper Image Corp. (SHRP), J.C. Penney Company Inc. (JCP), Federated Department Stores Inc. (FD), Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF), Aeropostale Inc. (ARO), Bon-Ton Stores Inc. (BONT), Target Corp. (TGT), Kohl's Corp. (KSS), AnnTaylor Stores Corp. (ANN), Family Dollar Stores Inc. (FDO), Fred's Inc. (FRED), Stein Mart Inc. (SMRT), BJ's Wholesale Club Inc. (BJ), Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. (JOSB), Chico's FAS Inc. (CHS)

Viacom: Net Down 36% on MTV Costs, But Adjusted EPS Beats Street

Viacom reported a 36% drop in Q1 net income to $202.9 million, or $0.29/share. It was hurt by costs related to job cuts at its MTV unit and incurred higher movie marketing expenses. Adjusted EPS of $0.34 however, beat analysts' average estimate of $0.32/share. Revenues rose 16% to $2.75b, topping the Street's consensus estimate of $2.57b. Viacom-VIA-chart-05-09-07 Sales at its Paramount film unit climbed 27% to $1.1b, but higher advertising and distribution costs resulted in a $105.7m operating loss, compared to a profit of $51.1m last year. Cable TV revenues were up 10% to $1.73b, but higher advertising and fees, in addition to restructuring charges at MTV led to a 3% drop in profit to $601.5m. Shares of Viacom gained 1.15% to $42.05 during normal trading Wednesday. Viacom said it has a $3b share repurchase program in place and bought 4.3m shares for $174m in Q1 (year-to-date through May 3, it has repurchased 6.3m shares for approximately $257m). Separately, an affiliate of Paramount and Daewoo Motor Sales Corp. announced in a press conference they will build an $800m theme park in S. Korea set to open in 2009.
Sources: Press release [pdf], Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal
Commentary: Google Expresses Confidence It Will Win Viacom YouTube SuitViacom Needs to Team Up With Google, Rather Than Sue ItImplications of the Yahoo-Viacom PartnershipViacom Earnings Conference Call Transcript (later today)
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Viacom (VIA). Competitors: Disney (DIS), General Electric (GE), News Corp (NWS), Time Warner (TWX). ETFs: First Trust IPOX-100 Index (FPX), Consumer Discretionary SPDR (XLY), PowerShares Dynamic Media (PBS)

EchoStar Net Up 7%, But Misses Estimates, Sales In-line

EchoStar Communications reported Q1 net income increased 6.8% to $157 million, or $0.35/share, but missed analysts' average estimate of $0.44/share. Revenues rose 15% to $2.64 billion, matching the Street's forecast. Rival DirecTV announced a 43% jump in Q1 net income, but also missed estimates ($0.27 vs. $0.30). EchoStar-DISH-chart-05-09-07 In pre-market activity, EchoStar was last trading down 1.2% to $47.60 on thin volume of less than 2,000 shares. EchoStar lost 0.7% to $48.17 in normal trading Wednesday and has pulled back about 1.7% since hitting a 52-week and multi-year closing high of $49.02 on May 3. EchoStar said it added approximately 310,000 net new subscribers during the quarter and now has around 13.415 million subscribers. Total subscriber acquisition costs rose 11.7% to $401m and subscriber-related expenses increased 19% to $1.33b. Subscriber revenues were up 16.3% to $2.55b, while equipment sales fell 9.9% to $76.3m.
Sources: Press release and Form 10-Q [pdf], Bloomberg, MarketWatch
Commentary: DirectTV, EchoStar Enjoy Free Cash Flow GrowthGoogle to Broker TV Ads for EchoStarEchoStar Earnings Conference Call Transcript (later today)
Stocks/ETFs to watch: EchoStar Communications (DISH). Competitors: DIRECTV Group, Inc. (DTV), Time Warner Inc. (TWX), Cablevision Systems Corporation (CVC), TiVo Inc. (TIVO), Comcast Corporation (CMCSA)

Seeking Alpha's news briefs are combined into a pre-market summary called Wall Street Breakfast. Get Wall Street Breakfast by email -- it's free and takes only seconds to sign up.

Today's Market (via Sam Collins, ChangeWave.com)

Recap of Yesterday's Action
Yesterday it was all about the Federal Reserve and the post-Federal Open Market Committee meeting announcement. And the message was mostly the same as the one it has given after every meeting this year -- growth is OK and inflation is still a concern. Also, everyone knew that there would be no change in interest rates, and so there was no disappointment there, either.

The stock market doesn't like uncertainty or surprises, so when the announcement came and it was almost exactly what most professionals expected, a collective sigh of relief was felt on Wall Street.

As might be expected, the big blue chips like IBM, Caterpillar (CAT), Verizon (VZ), JPMorgan (JPM) and McDonald's (MCD) led the way to another new Dow high. And Alltel (AT) rose on a story that three private equity groups are targeting it as a possible takeover. But Disney (DIS), also a Dow component, fell 1.2% after it failed to generate as much revenue as forecast, even though its profits came in higher -- tough world out there!

At the closing bell yesterday, the Dow Industrials had gained 54 points at 13,364, the S&P 500 gained five points at 1,513 and the Nasdaq also gained five to close at 2,576. Volume was 1.56 billion shares on the NYSE and 2.16 billion on the Nasdaq, and breadth was a positive 20-to-11 on the Big Board and 16-to-13 on the Nasdaq.

Crude oil (June contract) fell as the Energy Department's estimate of supplies showed the biggest gain since mid-January, and gasoline supplies had the biggest increase since January. Crude fell by 71 cents, closing at $61.55 a barrel, on the report that supplies increased by 5.6 million barrels for the week ended May 4. The Amex Energy SPDR (XLE) rose by 6 cents to $64.95, just barely setting a new high. Gold also fell as the June contract lost $4.90 at $682.50 per troy ounce, and the Philly Gold and Silver Index [XAU] gained 10 cents to close at $141.80.

What the Markets Are Saying
With the Fed meeting out of the way, it's likely that the market will go back to focusing on earnings. But with upward of three-quarters of the S&P 500 companies having reported, that bit of fuel may be drying up. My guess is that the markets will go back to scrutinizing the fundamental drivers of the economy, and one of the primary ones is the consumer. So far, that segment has been relatively strong, and if we should see the price of gasoline fall, consumer spending would likely benefit as we go into the fall season.

As for internal technical readings, the sentiment indicators have moved slightly to the bullish side but not yet to the levels that should cause concern. Investors Intelligence reports that bulls increased to 53.3%, up from 51.7% last week -- the highest reading since January but still far below the 60% reading of December. This leads me to conclude that we might see a slight pause before the markets move higher.

Today's Trading Landscape
Weekly jobless claims, the March trade balance and April import prices will be reported today. And earnings are on the docket today from MedCath (MDTH), American International Group (AIG), Consolidated Edison (ED), Nvidia (NVDA), PG&E Corp. (PCG), Sara Lee (SLE), THQ Inc. (THQI) and Vonage (VG), among others.

Major retailers will release a host of retail sales results for April (read above), and since consumer buying has had a major part in fueling the economy, these numbers could have a big impact on trading today and tomorrow.

Asian Headlines (via Bloomberg.com)

Asian Shares Drop From Record; Toyota Falls on Profit Forecast, Rio Slides Asian stocks fell from a record, led by Japanese automakers, after Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) predicted its smallest profit increase since net income declined in 1999.

Chinese Estates, Controlled by Lau Brothers, Suspended Pending Buyout Chinese Estates Holdings Ltd., a Hong Kong-based real estate developer owned by billionaire brothers Thomas Lau and Joseph Lau, halted trading of its shares pending a possible buyout offer.

China's Trade Surplus Likely Widened, Stoking Calls for Yuan Appreciation China's trade surplus probably widened in April, adding fuel to U.S. demands for faster appreciation of the yuan before policy makers of the two nations meet this month.

Singapore Air, Helped by New Boeing Jets, May Post Higher Sales, Earnings Singapore Airlines Ltd., the world's largest airline by market value, probably outperformed the competition last quarter by using nine new Boeing Co. 777-300ERs after Airbus SAS delayed deliveries of its A380 superjumbo jet.

European Headlines (via Bloomberg.com)

European Stocks Decline, Led by Rio Tinto; E.ON, RWE Drop on Rate Concern European stocks fell, led by mining shares after Rio Tinto Group (RTP) damped speculation of takeovers in the industry and copper declined for a third day.

Bank of England Raises Benchmark Rate to Six-Year High to Stanch Inflation The Bank of England raised its benchmark interest rate to a six-year high as consumer spending, house-price growth and record employment drove inflation to the fastest in a decade.

UniCredit Is Considering Acquisitions of Societe Generale, Capitalia UniCredit SpA, Italy's biggest bank, said it's considering acquisitions of France's Societe Generale SA or Capitalia SpA in a record year for European bank takeovers.

ECB Holds Benchmark Rate at 3.75 Percent, May Signal an Increase for June The European Central Bank left interest rates unchanged today after seven increases since late 2005 to contain inflation. ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet will probably signal the bank's ready to raise borrowing costs again in June.

EADS Reports Third Consecutive Loss on Cost Overruns, Airbus A380 Delays European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. reported a third consecutive loss as its Airbus unit, the world's biggest planemaker, struggled to overcome delays and rising costs on the A380 superjumbo jet.

Source: Pre-Market Snapshot: Futures Bearish On April Retail Weakness