Fed Minutes Could Lift the Dow

Pessimism about the upcoming earnings season has sunk the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) over the past four days as a number of companies send foreboding signals that their second-quarter earnings will disappoint. MAKO Surgical (Nasdaq: MAKO  ) and Cummins (NYSE: CMI  ) were the newest additions to that list yesterday, and their stocks fell 41% and 9%, respectively.

However, Dow futures are headed up 0.2% in early morning trading today, with the Federal Open Market Committee Minutes due out at 2 p.m. EDT. Investors are looking for clues into future interest rate adjustments and awaiting the central bank's most recent observations on the economy.

Markets in Asia and Europe were mixed in overnight trading. Foreign investors seem equally fearful of earnings season, as indexes abroad have fallen in recent days as well. OPEC also projected that worldwide oil demand growth would slow in 2013, in part because of the European debt crisis, the struggling U.S. economy, and slowing growth in emerging markets.

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) presented investors with some good news ahead of its earnings report, saying the new iPad should go on sale in China on July 20 with a price tag of $499. The tech giant had to pay $60 million to settle a name dispute with a Chinese company before proceeding with the rollout. Rival Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) , meanwhile, agreed to pay a $22.5 million fine to the Federal Trade Commission for tinkering with the privacy settings on mobile devices running Apple's Safari web browser. The violation allowed Google to track the online history of millions of iPhone and iPad users and broke a law prohibiting the search company from misleading customers about its privacy practices.

In addition to the Fed minutes due out this afternoon, the market is also waiting on the May wholesale inventories report at 10 a.m. EDT. Analysts expect an increase of 0.3% following April's gain of 0.6%. While this figure generally doesn't affect markets, an unexpected jump could bode well for mega-retailers such as Wal-Mart as a sign that retail spending is increasing. The International Trade report released earlier this morning showed a trade deficit in May of $48.7 billion, in line with expectations of $48.9 billion and an improvement from $50.1 billion in April.

Stay focused
While earnings season may have you rattled, keep in mind that over the long haul, one quarter is generally meaningless. Prepare yourself with a look at our experts' picks for the best dividend stocks on the Dow. These aren't the highest yielders, but they have the product diversity, brand recognition, and intangibles that will make them strong investments well into your retirement. Get your free copy of our new report, "The 3 Dow Stocks Dividend Investors Need," now. All you have to do is click right here.

Fool contributor Jeremy Bowman owns shares of Apple and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of MAKO Surgical, Google, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of MAKO Surgical, Google, Cummins, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have also recommended creating bull call spread positions in Apple and Wal-Mart Stores. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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