Stock Market Today: Netflix Speeds Up and Red Lobster Gears for a Fight

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Investors can expect a flat start to the stock market today, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) has gained a modest 34 points in premarket trading. Global indexes didn't move much overnight, with European shares rising slightly after a reading on German business confidence came in surprisingly high. 

Today's U.S. economic calendar is light, but tomorrow we'll get a fresh estimate on consumer confidence that should register a solid 81 out of 100 for the month of February, on par with January's result.

Meanwhile, news is breaking this morning on several stocks that could see heavy trading in today's session, including Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX  ) , Darden Restaurants (NYSE: DRI  ) , and Armstrong World Industries (NYSE: AWI  ) .

Netflix struck a deal with Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA  ) over the weekend that will give it a direct connection to the cable operator's massive broadband network. While the financial terms weren't disclosed, the agreement looks like a win for both companies: Netflix can now deliver a faster experience for millions of its users, while Comcast gets paid for its part in carrying the data load, which has been spiking higher as Netflix's subscriber base swells. Netflix stock is up 1.2% in premarket trading, while Comcast is up 1.5%.

Darden Restaurants' plan to spin off its Red Lobster chain is under attack again, as an activist investor is expected to launch a new challenge to the spinoff today, according to The Wall Street Journal. Red Lobster has been struggling lately, most recently posting a brutal 4.5% decline in quarterly sales. But some investors have argued that Darden would be better off making more dramatic changes to its corporate structure than just separating the struggling chain from its business. Darden stock is unchanged in premarket trading.

Finally, Armstrong World Industries said this morning that fourth-quarter sales improved by a strong 7.9% to $661 million as sales volumes rose across its sales markets. However, operating income for the floor and ceilings manufacturer dove by 28% thanks to spiking lumber costs. EPS clocked in at $0.32, below Wall Street's expectations of $0.41. Armstrong said it is "cautiously optimistic" that it should see modest growth this year, with sales coming in around $2.9 billion -- about even with analysts' expectations. The stock is unchanged in premarket trading.

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