After six trading sessions of flatlining, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) and S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC ) , the two primary U.S. equity indexes, managed to capture gains of 0.65% and 0.71%, respectively. Mixed economic data and a so-so earnings report from Wal-Mart failed to provide the spark as stocks slid lower in early trading. Instead, it was jubilation over a better-than-feared report from global tech player Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO ) , along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's comment that the country felt "committed to do everything we can in order to maintain the common currency," that brought out the best in markets. However, Cisco CEO John Chambers reiterated that the situation in Europe would likely deteriorate further before it improves.
Merkel's comments led to broad-based gains in European stocks late yesterday, a trend they continued today, with all major indexes trading higher as of this writing -- this despite opposing comments out of Finland, where foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja was quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying "it is only a matter of time" before the eurozone breaks up. Of course, when you look at each country's relative importance to the eurozone, with Germany's GDP more than 10 times that of Finland, it's easy to understand why investors are paying more attention to Merkel today.
Turning back to U.S. stocks, futures markets were relatively flat as of this writing, offering little evidence of the direction today's trading will take. That might change, however, after a reading on consumer sentiment is released shortly after the opening bell. Every gauge of the consumer's psyche is important, given that consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of GDP.
As is the norm for Fridays, it's a slow day for earnings reports, with the only one coming from S&P 500 component The J. M. Smucker Company (NYSE: SJM ) . While its name engenders visions of biting into Mom's PB&J, this company is much more than a jam maker today. In fact, the majority of revenue come from its U.S. retail coffee segment, which includes Folgers, Millstone, and Dunkin' Donuts brands. Nearly 8% of sales in that segment have come from K-Cups compatible with the Keurig brewer made by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Nasdaq: GMCR ) . The remainder of the coffee business has seen volume declines recently due to ramped-up private-label competition from grocers -- something that should be of interest to investors, as K-Cup patents expire later this year. We've already seen evidence of grocers adopting the K-Cup format for their private-label coffees, a trend that should accelerate later this year and into 2013.
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