EPS Superseding All Else

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U.S. stocks are higher Thursday on solid earnings reports from eBay (EBAY) and IBM (IBM), and ahead of this evening's news from Microsoft (MSFT) and Google (GOOG). The SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) and SPDR Dow Jones Industrials Average Index (DIA) were understating the early move of the PowerShares (QQQ) on EPS-tied tech sector enthusiasm. Stocks look to keep their momentum on EPS heading into the day's close, in my view.


International markets are higher Thursday, with Asian shares having their best day this month due to speculation that China may do more soon to boost growth. It's funny to me, since Yum Brands (YUM) just reported its China-based costs had impeded its bottom line this quarter. However, Asian shares are rallying also on yesterday's U.S. economic data, which seemed to some to show a gain in housing (stay tuned to my column feed). European shares were higher as well and the euro was gaining on the dollar today, as Germany micromanages Spanish aid distribution. The German government wants to keep a bead on the issue, keeping Chancellor Merkel on a short leash. Spanish bond yields rose on that news, and I expect euro region shares will reconsider the day's gain as they better consider this information.

Euro STOXX 50: +0.9%

FTSE 100: +0.2

DAX: +1.08%

Hang Seng: +1.7%

Nikkei 225: +0.8%

U.S. Economic Data

When weekly jobless claims were reported dramatically improved last week, we quickly sifted and screened and found the effects of a midweek July 4th holiday and a lack of seasonal automaker plant shutdowns at Ford (F) and General Motors (GM) had played havoc on the data. This week corrected against that swing, with the flow of weekly jobless claims rising 34,000 to 386,000 in the week ending July 14. The four-week moving average will take four weeks to weed out the dirty data. Obviously, this is not a good data point for market movement's sake, but nobody will notice until it nears 400,000.

The weekly Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index was reported at 9:45 a.m. ET. This week's report showed the index deteriorated to negative 37.9. Consumer confidence has clearly faded due to the issues of Europe and signs of economic impact here at home. The Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR (XLY) might be impacted by this data point, but I doubt it.

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank issues its survey of manufacturing this morning at 10:00 a.m. ET. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg see the Philly Fed's General Business Conditions Index marking negative 8.0, which would signify improvement from June's -16.6 mark. Earlier this week, the New York Fed's similar measure read 7.39, up from 2.29 and ahead of the consensus view for 4.5. Of course, the ISM Manufacturing Index dipped into territory signifying economic contraction when last read.

At 10:00 a.m., the Conference Board reports its Leading Economic Indicators Index for June. Economists are pointing toward a seminal event for the index, with the consensus looking for a decline of 0.1% in June. That would match against the May increase of 0.3%. This will raise concern about the American third quarter, with July offering a bad start.

The EIA reports on natural gas inventory at 10:30 a.m. Last week's data covering the week ending July 6 showed natural gas inventory increased 33 Bcf. Stocks were 516 Bcf above the five-year average for this time of year. United States Natural Gas (UNG) was down fractionally in early trading.

Corporate Drivers

IBM produced a positive report last evening, serving the readers of my preview and recommendation well. The shares gained Wednesday before the release and again after my report, and are up again this morning.

Yum Brands disappointed last evening, indicating that rising costs in China had impeded its bottom line. The shares are down 3.5% in the early going.

Thursday's earnings schedule highlights news from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), AEHR Test Systems (AEHR), Akzo Nobel (OTCQX:AKZOF), Athenahealth (ATHN), AutoNation (AN), Baxter International (BAX), BB&T (BBT), Blackstone (BX), Builders FirstSource (BLDR), Cepheid (CPHD), Chimera Investment (CIM), Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG), Cubist Pharmaceuticals (CBST), Cypress Semiconductor (CY), Cytec Industries (CYT), Danaher (DHR), Diamond Offshore Drilling (DO), Dole Food (DOLE), E*Trade Financial (ETFC), Fairchild Semiconductor (FCS), Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB), Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (FCX), Google, Intuitive Surgical (ISRG), Johnson Controls (JCI), KeyCorp (KEY), Laboratory Corp. (LH), Lattice Semiconductor (LSCC), Microsoft , Nucor (NUE), Overstock.com (OSTK), Philip Morris (PM), Pool Corp. (POOL), PPG Industries (PPG), Quest Diagnostics (DGX), Rambus (RMBS), Safeway (SWY), SanDisk (SNDK), Scholastic (SCHL), Sonoco (SON), Southwest Airlines (LUV), Travelers (TRV), Travelzoo (TZOO), UnitedHealth (UNH), USA Truck (USAK), Verizon (VZ), VF Corp. (VFC), and more.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

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