Look for a positive start to the stock market today: The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) has gained a moderate 25 points in pre-market trading. World markets booked solid gains overnight, with European stocks on pace to close their strongest week of the year.
The U.S. economic calendar is light today, but investors will be hearing a lot from the Federal Reserve. Four members of the central bank's rate-setting body are due to give speeches throughout the afternoon, and those talks should provide more clarity on the Fed's changing timetable for hiking interest rates.
Meanwhile, news is breaking this morning on several stocks that could see heavy trading in today's session, including Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC ) , Tiffany (NYSE: TIF ) , and Darden Restaurants (NYSE: DRI ) .
Symantec shares were down 10% in pre-market trading after the antivirus software provider last night announced that it had fired CEO Steve Bennett and replaced him with an interim leader. Bennett took the CEO spot in July 2012, but the company's board of directors has been disappointed by the lack of progress in product innovation and revenue growth since then, according to the The Wall Street Journal. Efforts to turn around the business also haven't paid off for shareholders: Symantec's stock is down by 15% over the last year, while the broader market has risen by 20%. In announcing the CEO change, the company also affirmed its outlook for the current quarter, which calls for sales to fall by roughly 8%.
Tiffany today announced results for its fourth quarter which included a 5% sales improvement to $1.3 billion. The jewelry maker also booked adjusted profit of $1.47 a share, which was only slightly below Wall Street's estimate of $1.52. Other good news included an uptick in profitability as gross margin rose by 1.4 percentage points to hit 60.5% of sales. However, investors may be a bit concerned with Tiffany's light profit guidance for 2014, which calls for earnings of $4.10 a share, below the $4.28 that analysts were targeting. Tiffany's stock was down nearly 2% in pre-market trading.
Finally, Darden Restaurants today booked a brutal 20% dip in profit for its fiscal third quarter. Earnings fell to $0.82 a share from $1.02 in the year-ago period. Revenue also ticked lower by 1.1% to $2.2 billion as Darden's flagship Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains continued to see big traffic declines: same-store sales fell by 5% and 9% for the two brands, respectively, in the quarter. Despite those negative business trends, the company was confident that it could meet its full-year earnings target thanks to aggressive cost reductions. The stock was down 2.2% pre-market trading.
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