Thursday, January 28, 2010

BEFORE THE BELL: US Stock Futures Up After Obama Speech; Ford Climbs

U.S. stock futures rose Thursday as markets assessed President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, while upbeat results from Ford Motor Co. and others also contributed to a positive tone.

S&P 500 futures rose 5.1 points to 1099.70 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 4.75 points to 1813.70. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 37 points.

Speaking to the nation and members of Congress in a high-stakes policy address, President Barack Obama late Wednesday used his first State of the Union speech to call for a host of job creation measures and a redoubled effort to finish health-care reform in the midst of a newly challenging political environment for him and his party.

Stock markets in Europe and Asia--which also were getting their first opportunity to react to the Fed statement--were generally stronger, with the Nikkei 225 up 1.6% in Tokyo and the pan-European Dow Jones Stoxx 600 rising 1%.

Obama's call for tax breaks, as well as a less strident attack on banks vs. what was seen last week, appeared to go down well overseas.

The economics calendar features weekly jobless claims and December durable goods orders, with both sets of reports due at 8:30 a.m., EST.

A vote in the Senate on the confirmation of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke also is due, with expectations that the Fed chairman will squeak through.

Earnings rolled in from giants including Ford Motor Co. (F), up 3% after returning to a profit and as Toyota Motor (TM, 7203.TO) expanded its car recall; Nokia Corp. (NOK), up 11% after stronger-than-forecast quarterly profit; and Eastman Kodak Co. (EK), up nearly 14% after a profit from the ex-Dow component.

On the downside, Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM) tumbled nearly 9% on a cut sales outlook, and Nokia rival Motorola Inc. (MOT) dropped on a worse-than-forecast quarter.

After the close, Microsoft Corp.(MSFT) and Inc. (AMZN) report results.

Yields on 10-year Treasury bonds were steady at 3.66%, and the dollar index rose slightly.

Platinum futures by $26 an ounce, while crude oil futures rose 54 cents a barrel.

On an event-filled Wednesday--the Fed growing more optimistic on the economy as it held rates, Apple Inc.(AAPL) introducing the iPad, Toyota Motor Corp. (TM, 7203.TO) recalling cars, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner defending the American International Group Inc. (AIG) bailout and several earnings--U.S. stocks rose, with the Dow industrials rising 41 points, the Nasdaq Composite adding 17 points and the S&P 500 growing 5 points.

-By Steve Goldstein;44 2078 429 424;

Among the companies whose shares are expected to actively trade in Thursday's session are Nokia Corp. (NOK) and Netflix Inc. (NFLX) and E*Trade Financial Corp. (ETFC).

American depositary shares of Finland's Nokia rose 13% to $14.55 premarket after the world's largest mobile phone maker maintained its key financial targets for 2010 and posted a stronger-than-expected rise in fourth quarter net profit as margins improved.

Netflix's fourth-quarter profit climbed 36% on higher sales and margins, and the company added more than 1 million subscribers during the quarter to reach its year-end target of 12.3 million. Shares jumped 16% to $59.11 in late trading as the online DVD-rental pioneer's earnings topped its forecast while revenue was in line with guidance.

E*Trade Financial's fourth-quarter loss narrowed as the online broker posted significantly lower loan-loss provisions and noted net charge-offs fell sequentially. Shares rose 1.8% to $1.68 in after-hours trading.

The crisis facing Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) deepened Thursday as the company said its large-scale recall, stemming from a faulty accelerator pedal problem, would spread to Europe on an undetermined number of vehicles. China's quality watchdog also said one of Toyota's China joint ventures will recall 75,552 RAV4 sport-utility vehicles because of the same problem. Shares fell 1.9% to $78.27 in light premarket trading.

Qualcomm Inc.'s (QCOM) fiscal first-quarter profit more than doubled on higher sales and a large prior-year write-down. Shares fell 9.9% to $42.52 after hours as the world's largest wireless-chip maker lowered its fiscal-year revenue guidance on a "subdued economic recovery in developed regions, including Europe and Japan, combined with relative strength at the lower end of the market" but backed its earnings guidance. ThinkEquity and Morgan Keegan both cut their ratings on the stock.

Align Technology Inc.'s (ALGN) fourth-quarter profit fell 82% from a year earlier, when the company recorded a big tax benefit, but the orthodontic-products maker saw surprisingly strong sales growth. The company expects that strength to continue into the current quarter, forecasting current-quarter earnings above analysts' views. Shares rose 14% to $18.99 in light premarket trading.

AstraZeneca PLC's (AZN) fiscal-year results are "essentially disappointing," an analyst said, noting both the 2009 results and the pharmaceutical company's guidance for a 2010 miss of consensus expectations. The analyst said while the medium term sales outlook given by the company is a little more optimistic, this is somewhat precarious as it implies success in a couple of quite high risk drug trials. The company posted a smaller-than-forecast 24% jump in fourth-quarter net profit, helped by rising sales of cholesterol pill Crestor and its swine flu vaccine. ADSs fell 3.2% to $48.06 premarket.

Ball Corp.'s (BLL) fourth-quarter earnings more than doubled amid prior-year charges while sales rose. The plastic and metal packaging company also said it expects earnings growth this year, even though it said it would be tough to beat least year's first-quarter results, which were helped by inventory gains. Shares rose 7% to $54 in premarket trading.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s (BMY) fourth-quarter profit soared on higher sales as well as a gain related to its split-off of Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. (MJN). The drug maker also predicted 2010 revenue above analysts' views, though it projected earnings in line. Shares increased 1.2% to $24.60 premarket.

Cabot Corp.'s (CBT) fiscal first-quarter profit soared as the chemicals and specialty materials company's sales volumes saw double-digit growth and margins improved. Shares rose 2.5% to $27.24 in late trading as the earnings far exceeded Wall Street's expectations.

Cardinal Health Corp.'s (CAH) fiscal second-quarter earnings fell 26%, but adjusted earnings topped analysts' forecasts. The second-biggest drug distributor in the U.S. also raised its fiscal-year earnings guidance again, sending shares up 3.4% to $32.37 premarket.

Citrix Systems Inc.'s (CTXS) fourth-quarter profit climbed 47% as the virtualization and infrastructure software company posted higher revenue globally as well as in all its businesses. Even as results topped expectations, shares dropped 4.2% to $40.23 after hours.

Eastman Kodak Co. (EK) reversed a loss in the fourth quarter amid cost cuts, growth in its digital products businesses and improved profit margins. Shares jumped 14% premarket to $5.36 as results were well above analysts' expectations. Chairman and Chief Executive Antonio M. Perez said, "Momentum is returning" to the company that has been dealing with lagging demand and the continued shift to digital photography.

Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY) swung to a fourth-quarter profit, with results falling short of analysts' estimates, as the company booked a $4.73 billion charge in the year-earlier quarter from its purchase of ImClone Systems Inc. The drug maker's fourth-quarter results were "highlighted by volume-based revenue gains, improved gross margins and quality earnings growth," said Chairman and Chief Executive John C. Lechleiter. Shares rose 1.7% to $37 premarket.

First Financial Bancorp (Ohio) (FFBC) shares rose 2.4% to $15.50 premarket as the bank holding company priced its 5.6 million share offering at $15.14 each--Wednesday's closing price.

Flextronics International Ltd.'s (FLEX) fiscal third-quarter profit more than quadrupled sequentially as the company's sales rose and gross margin expanded. The results beat its October guidance, and the company provided fiscal fourth-quarter guidance ranges for adjusted earnings and revenue that were mostly higher than analysts' estimates. Despite the results, shares fell 3.8% to $6.83 in after-hours trading.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc.'s (GMCR) fiscal first-quarter fell 13% on a prior-year patent settlement as results handily topped analysts' expectations. Shares gained 2.5% to $82.01 as the company again raised its forecast for the year.

Kirby Corp.'s (KEX) fourth-quarter profit dropped 24% as demand continued weak. Shares dropped 6.9% to $33.50 after hours on lower-than-expected results for the owner of a fleet of tank barges.

LSI Corp. (LSI) swung to a fourth-quarter profit as the storage-chip maker saw "increasing signs of an early-stage recovery" in information-technology spending. But shares dropped 7% to $5.58 after hours.

Oshkosh Corp. (OSK) swung to a fiscal first-quarter profit, as better-than-expected revenue growth and higher margins helped the specialty-vehicle maker easily top Wall Street's expectations. Shares rose 3.9% to $37. 39 premarket.

Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (POT) posted a significant drop in fourth-quarter earnings, hurt by the continued effects of the global economic downturn on potash sales volumes and prices for potash, phosphate and nitrogen products. The integrated fertilizer company also forecasted continued production curtailments. The company also forecast first-quarter and full-year earnings below analysts' views. Shares fell 3.9% to $105.30 premarket.

Solutia Inc. (SOA) swung to a fourth-quarter profit on higher sales volumes and lower costs as well as $470 million in prior-year impairment and restructuring charges. Shares gained 9.7% to $13.90 in late trading as the specialty chemicals company's results far exceeded Wall Street's expectations.

Symantec Corp. (SYMC) swung to a fiscal third-quarter profit on continued strength in the antivirus-software maker's consumer business and as results improved at the security and compliance business. Shares slid 4.8% to $17.71 in late trading although results were better than the company projected.

Teradyne Inc. (TER) swung to a fourth-quarter profit--the second in a row after four consecutive quarterly losses--on higher sales and a prior-year goodwill write-down of $329.7 million. Shares rose 5.3% to $10.80 in after-hours trading as the semiconductor testing equipment maker predicted first-quarter results far above Wall Street's expectations.

Janney Capital Markets cut its rating on Tetra Tech Inc. (TTEK) to neutral from buy, saying despite a solid fiscal first quarter, the provider of consulting and engineering services "has thrown in the towel early on construction project delays, laying off employees and cutting its earnings forecast for the year, citing lack of visibility on near-term project awards."

Textron Inc.'s (TXT) fourth-quarter loss narrowed after large prior-year charges for exiting some financial-services businesses, as the defense contractor and aircraft maker's core income declined less than analysts expected. But the company continued to keep its expectations in check, setting its 2010 earnings targets way below analysts' views. Shares slid 2.4% to $20.50 premarket.

Tractor Supply Co. (TSCO), the largest farm and ranch dealer in the U.S., reported fourth-quarter earnings jumped 55% on margin and sales gains. For 2010, the company forecast earnings view above analysts' estimates, while its outlook for revenue was in line with consensus. Shares rose 2.5% to $53.50 in after-hours trading.

Tyco International Ltd. (TYC) fiscal first-quarter earnings rose 9% on cost cuts at the diversified manufacturer. Tyco's ADT security business, the biggest segment by revenue, was also the company's strongest in the most recent period, posting an 14% jump in income as sales inched up 1%. Shares rose 3.2% to $37.65 in light premarket trading.

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