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Stocks were trading much higher Thursday, with the SPDR S&P 500 (SPY), SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average (DIA) and the PowerShares QQQ (QQQ) each gaining upward of 1.5% at the start of trading. The market is increasingly looking toward Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke to usher in new stimulus next week. Also, this morning ECB Chief Mario Draghi said, "the bank would do whatever it takes to preserve the euro." That sent European shares much higher today, with the iShares S&P Europe 350 Index (IEV) up 3.3% this morning. The market got some extra help domestically from supportive Weekly Jobless Claims data. GDP is still on the slate for tomorrow, and will be approached with fear and trembling. Nothing can stop a bad GDP data point from sinking stocks, and that thought should temper enthusiasm by the close today.

US Economic Drivers

Weekly Initial Jobless Claims were reported down 35K to 353K in the period ending July 21, but don't get too excited just yet. The last few weeks' data offered a low figure on a seasonal adjustment against plant closings that didn't happen, and I suspect this week, plant shutdowns that did happen without the adjustment. So, even as the DOL says to look at the four-week moving average, which was down 8,750, to 367,250, I say that figure is probably also mistaken. In the weeks ahead, I'm expecting jobless claims to once again rise above 400K.

Durable Goods Orders were reported up 1.6%, but once again, temper your enthusiasm. When excluding transportation, which includes high-ticket items that skew the data, durable orders fell 1.1%. Economists were looking for a 0.6% increase on the top line and 0.2% increase ex-transportation; the news is in the latter miss. When excluding defense, new orders fell 0.7%, which is more bad news. The Industrial Select Sector SPDR (XLI) is higher by 1.7% along with the broader market at the hour of scribbling here, given the top line growth and other drivers. It's probably a good time to bet on the gain going away now.

The Pending Home Sales Index was reported lower for June, down to a mark of 99.3, from 100.7 (revised) in May. The index is a forward looking indicator for existing home sales, because it measures contract signings. The data adds on to the month's mostly bad housing data, with the pace of New Home Sales slipping in its latest reporting as well. The SPDR S&P Homebuilders (XHB) is up 2.1% so far today on the broader drivers and a solid report from PulteGroup (PHM).

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index deteriorated in the period ending July 22nd, to its lowest mark in two months. The consumer measure fell to negative 38.5, from minus 37.9 last week. Wal-Mart (WMT), the nation's retailer, and the Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR (XLY) are up against the news on the broader macroeconomic drivers.

The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank Branch reports on the state of the region's manufacturing sector at 11:00 AM ET. We recently noted the infection spreading across the manufacturing sector, another warning sign for our recession watch. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg see the Kansas City measure rising to a mark of 4, from 3 in June.

The EIA reports today on Natural Gas Inventory. Last week's report showed natural gas in storage increased by 28 Bcf, placing stocks 470 Bcf above the five-year average for this time of year. The glut grows, and the United States Natural Gas (UNG) fund is up 1.1% anyway.

Corporate Drivers

Overnight, Zynga (ZNGA) was the big news maker, reporting EPS results short of analysts' estimates. ZNGA is off 40% Thursday after posting a penny per share in adjusted earnings, five cents short of analysts' expectations based on Yahoo Finance data. That led investors to also reconsider Facebook (FB) ahead of its own earnings report at the close today, with FB shares down 6% at this hour.

Thursday's earnings reports and consensus estimates for the current quarter follow.



3M (MMM)


Agco (AGCO)


Alaska Air (ALK)


Alcatel-Lucent (ALU)



$0.16 (AMZN)


AmerisourceBergen (ABC)


Amgen (AMGN)


Amkor (AMKR)


AstraZeneca (AZN)


Ball Corp. (BLL)


Barrick Gold (ABX)


BJ's Restaurant (BJRI)


BorgWarner (BWA)


Boston Scientific (BSX)


Cash America (CSH)


Celgene (CELG)


Cerner (CERN)


Chelsea Therapeutics (CHTP)


Chubb (CB)


Clearwire (CLWR)


Coinstar (CSTR)


Colgate-Palmolive (CL)


Dana Holding (DAN)


Dow Chemical (DOW)


Dr. Pepper Snapple (DPS)


Dunkin' Brands (DNKN)


Expedia (EXPE)


Exxon Mobil (XOM)




Goldcorp. (GG)


Healthsouth (HLS)


International Paper (IP)


Kimberly-Clark (KMB)


KLA-Tencor (KLAC)


McGraw-Hill (MHP)


Mead Johnson (MJN)


MetroPCS (PCS)


Navios Maritime (NMM)


New York Times (NYT)


Noble Energy (NBL)


Nutrisystem (NTRI)


Occidental Petroleum (OXY)


Potash Corp. (POT)


Quality Systems (QSII)


Raytheon (RTN)


Safeguard Scientifics (SFE)


Sonic Foundry (SOFO)


Sprint Nextel (NYE: SS)


Starbucks (SBUX)


Tellabs (TLAB)


Tenneco (TEN)


Hershey (HSY)


VCA Antech (WOOF)


VistaPrint (VPRT)


Vulcan Materials (VMC)


Waste Management (WM)


World Acceptance (WRLD)


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