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Futures flat while storage stocks see pre-open gains

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Stock futures are flat to marginally lower this morning as the major market indexes look to have lost some of yesterday's momentum with S&P futures (sp03h) inching down 2.90 points at 923.60 while NASDAQ futures (nd03h) trade unchanged at 1,061 and Dow futures (dj03h) edge lower by 12 points at 8,725.

While the major equity futures hover near unchanged levels, data storage names are getting a lift as EMC Corp. (NYSE:EMC) $6.90 is being marked up 67-cents, or 9.7% at $7.57 after the company said late yesterday that its fourth-quarter revenue will top analyst's expectations due to improved corporate demand for technology, particularly for its low-cost systems.

Adding to some storage bullishness was Storage Technology (NYSE:STK) $24.53 saying its fourth-quarter earnings would exceed analyst's expectations due to strong growth across all its product lines. The company said it expects earnings of more that 45 cents a share, which is well above the 36 cents a share that analysts polled by Thomson First Call were expecting. Shares of Storage Technology are adding $1.33, or 5.4% in pre-market trading.

Retailers are seeing some weakness after luxury retailer Tiffany (NYSE:TIF) $25.52 said its holiday sales came in below expectations. The news had shares of Tiffany trading off 67 cents, or 2.6% at $24.85 on light pre-market volume.

Other retailers reported similarly slow sales with Circuit City (NYSE:CC) $7.30 saying sales fell 6% in December, while Gymboree (NYSE:GYMB) $15.90 falls $1.90 to $14.00 after lowering its earnings forecast for its fiscal fourth quarter due to weaker than anticipated comparable-store sales.

Some upside news for retailing stocks had Sharper Image (NASDAQ:SHRP) $17.69 gaining 71 cents to $18.40 on light pre- market volume after raising the range of expectations for fiscal fourth quarter earnings to $1.15-$1.18 per share from a previous forecast of $1.12-$1.16 per share due to strong holiday season sales results.

Later today at around 1:15 PM EST, President Bush is expected to propose eliminating taxes on corporate dividend payments paid to shareholders as part of a $600 billion economic stimulus plan. The measure could cost the government $300 billion over 10 years and has some critics of the plan saying it may be too generous if the economy doesn't improve and stimulate tax receipts.

Economic highlights the rest of the week include November factory orders today at 10:00 AM EST, consumer credit on Wednesday, and wholesale inventories on Thursday.

On Friday, earnings reports will take a back seat to key economic data with reports on unemployment, hourly earnings and nonfarm payrolls.

The December jobs report is the highlight of the coming week's economic reports. None of the other data will have much impact on the markets or on the Federal Reserve, which is meeting again in four weeks.

Fair value for the S&P 500 today is $0.16. That price will not change during the session. HL Camp & Company has their computers set for program buying at $0.40 and set for selling at $-1.74. Fair value for the NASDAQ-100 today is $2.82.

Jeff Bailey

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