With August now halfway over, investors have to be wondering if the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) will do anything at all this month. Since shooting up more than 200 points on a promising jobs report two weeks ago, the blue chips have not moved more than 0.4% in a single day, and volume has been especially low. Today, some economic data and several quarterly reports from the retail sector threaten to end that streak.
Dow futures were pointed slightly higher ahead of opening after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao suggested that his country could further ease monetary policy. Asian markets were mixed overnight, while European indexes were flat in early trading.
Shares of Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) were sliding in premarket trading today, down more than 3% after the retail giant beat earnings but came up short on revenue. Sales clocked in at $114.3 billion, shy of the $115.8 billion analysts had expected, while EPS of $1.18 was a penny ahead of estimates. Wal-Mart also bumped up its full-year earnings guidance to $4.83 to $4.93 per share from $4.72 to $4.92, though Wall Street had already been eyeing the high end of that range.
Networking giant Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO ) looks set to jump more than 5% after its quarterly profits spiked 56%. EPS was still short of estimates, but the company beat top-line expectations and, most importantly for investors, raised its dividend by 75%. At $0.14 per share, the company will now pay approximately a 3% yield.
Facebook (Nasdaq: FB ) shares could also tumble today as the three-month lockup requirement on insider selling expires. The stock, which has already lost nearly half its value since coming onto the market in May, was down more than 1% in early-morning trading. More than 270 million shares will be released into the market today, increasing the float by 60%. A sharp decline could indicate a lack of insider confidence in the company's future.
On the macroeconomic slate, initial unemployment claims for last week came in at 366,000, essentially even with expectations and an increase of 2,000 from the week before. The Philadelphia Fed will also release its monthly survey on regional manufacturing output at 10 a.m. EDT. Analysts are expecting a figure of -5, which would be the fourth consecutive negative reading, though that would be an improvement over July's mark of -12.9.
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