One reason for the cautious outlook might be today's economic calendar. Durable-goods orders for January are expected at 8:30 a.m. EST, and consensus forecasts suggest that orders fell 5.5% last month after rising 4.6% during December. Also due are January's pending home sales, which are due at 10 a.m. EST and are expected to show that pending sales rose by 2% last month after falling 4.3% in December.
Finally, after speaking to the Senate yesterday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will testify to the House Committee on Financial Services today at 10 a.m. EST. Expect a repeat of yesterday's comments, which confirmed his support for the Fed's bond-buying programs.
In corporate news, Priceline.com and Edison International may be in demand after both companies beat expectations in their fourth-quarter results last night. Priceline.com shares were 4.3% higher in premarket trading this morning, while Edison International was up by 4.1%. However, shares in First Solar are expected to fall after the company disappointed analysts with its 2013 guidance last night -- the company's shares were 12.8% lower in premarket trading.
Target (NYSE: TGT ) released its fourth-quarter earnings this morning, reporting that profit dipped 2% to $961 million, or $1.47 per share. However, excluding items, EPS came in at $1.65, beating analyst expectations of $1.47. Sales met analyst expectations, up 7% to $22.7 billion.
Earlier this morning, The AES Corp reported full-year adjusted earnings of $1.24, beating expectations of $1.22 per share. Dollar Tree, ITT, and TJX Companies are also expected to report earnings before the markets open.
Apple will be closely watched this afternoon -- the company holds its shareholders meeting at 12 p.m. EST, and investors will be keen to find out whether the company will give way to pressure to return some of its $137 billion cash pile to shareholders following a high-profile campaign by Greenlight Capital founder David Einhorn. Finally, Groupon and J. C. Penney are expected to report after the closing bell today.
European markets edged higher this morning, helped by growing rumors that in Italy, a coalition deal may be developing that would enable Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani to form a government. There was also good news in the U.K., where revised GDP figures showed that the British economy grew by 0.3% over the last year, ahead of expectations for no growth.
At 7:50 a.m. EST, the DAX was up 0.35%, the CAC 40 was up 0.78%, the FTSE MIB was up 0.78%, and the IBEX 35 was up 0.76%. In London, the FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE ) was up 0.33%, with engineering group Weir Group gaining 3.5% and topping the table after announcing that sales rose by 11% and operating profit rose by 18% during 2012. At the bottom end of the table, oil field services group Petrofac was 6.1% lower despite a decent set of results showing a 17% increase in net profit during 2012 and a 17% dividend raise.
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