Futures flat as investors await earnings onslaught

April 21, 2014

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures pointed to a flat open on Monday as investors found few reasons to keep buying following a strong rally last week and ahead of a heavy week of corporate earnings.

* The S&P 500 (.SPX) had its best week since July last week, boosted by strong results from such names as General Electric Co (GE) and Morgan Stanley (MS). However, thus far the earnings season has been mixed, with technology names like Google Inc (GOOGL.O) and IBM (IBM) struggling to impress investors.

* With fewer than one-fifth of S&P 500 companies having reported results so far, about 63 percent have topped earnings expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, exceeding the 56 percent average over the past four quarters. About 52 percent have beaten revenue forecasts, about even with the 54 percent average over the past four quarters.

* Hasbro Inc (HAS.O) reported adjusted first-quarter earnings that topped forecasts, though revenue was below expectations. Halliburton Co (HAL.N) also reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit.

* Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) rose 9.5 percent to $4.04 in premarket trading. Late Thursday, the last session before the Good Friday trading holiday, the chipmaker posted first-quarter results that beat expectations.

* Perhaps the most eagerly awaited name on Monday is Netflix Inc (NFLX), which will report after the market closes. The online movie renter was recently a trading favorite, soaring 300 percent last year as the S&P 500′s biggest percentage gainer. The stock, stung by claims it is overvalued, has slumped recently alongside a broader decline in other recently high-flying names. Analysts will look to see whether the results justify its still-elevated price.

* S&P 500 futures rose 0.8 point and were slightly above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures added 7 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 12.25 points.

* The S&P 500 and Nasdaq are coming off four-day winning streaks, and investors may look to take profits on any disappointing corporate news.

* Dozens of S&P components will report this week, including such closely watched names as Apple Inc (AAPL), Biogen Idec (BIIB) and Facebook Inc (FB.O). A number of Dow components, including McDonald’s Corp (MCD), AT&T Inc (NYS:T), Procter & Gamble (PG.N) and Caterpillar Inc (CAT), also report.

* In company news, Britain’s Sunday Times reported that Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) had approached AstraZeneca (AZN.L) to propose a $101 billion takeover, an offer that was reportedly rejected. However, Astra’s cancer drug pipeline is still considered a draw for Pfizer. Shares of Pfizer, a Dow component, rose 1.5 percent to $30.70 before the bell while U.S. shares of Astra rose 5.7 percent to $67.11.

* Last week the Dow rose 2.4 percent, the S&P 500 added 2.7 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 2.4 percent. The Dow had its best week since December while the S&P 500 closed out its best week since July. The CBOE Volatility index (.VIX), a measure of investor anxiety, fell 21.6 percent over the week, its biggest weekly drop since January 2013.

(Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)

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