With earnings season now in full swing, it's starting to seem that worries over diminished profits were exaggerated. So far, more than 77% of reporting companies have beaten estimates, and all six Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) components that have posted earnings thus far have topped expectations.
Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) added its name to that list this morning with EPS of $0.19, ahead of estimates of $0.14 per share. The bank took in more mortgage income, and its quarter was a dramatic improvement over the year-ago quarter, when a mortgage-related lawsuit put an $8 billion dent into earnings. Shares of the financial giant nosed up 1% ahead of the opening bell.
While earnings beats from Coca-Cola and Goldman Sachs helped push the Dow into positive territory yesterday, that optimism has not carried over today, as the Dow is down 0.2% at open. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke appears to have spooked investors once again, acknowledging slowing growth in the economy but showing reluctance to take immediate action through another round of quantitative easing. Investors can expect some more Fed tea leaves at 2 p.m. EDT today when the central bank releases its Beige Book, the regular economic report from each of its 12 districts. Bernanke will also deliver more remarks to the House Financial Services Committee at 10 a.m. EDT today.
Two more Dow earnings reports are due out after close: financial American Express (NYSE: AXP ) and tech giant IBM (NYSE: IBM ) . While a number of other tech companies have dialed down earnings projections in recent weeks, expectations for IBM have remained strong at $3.42 per share, though it could get hurt by weakness in international markets. Investors will also be focused on top-line growth, which disappointed last quarter.
Analysts believe American Express, being a luxury brand, could take a hit in the second quarter as its customers cut back on spending due to the stock-market slump. High-end retailers, another indicator for AmEx, saw sales slowing in April and May. The market consensus is EPS of $1.09 for the credit card company, up from $1.07 a year ago.
There was one piece of good economic news to come out this morning. Housing starts in June jumped to an adjusted rate of 760,000, up 6.9% from May's total of 711,000 and 23.6% above June 2011 starts. That beat estimates by 17,000, though new building permits came in below estimates.
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