Stock Market Today: Bank of America’s Legal Woes and Ulta Salon’s Bounce

Can stocks make it five-for-five? The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  )  posted its fourth-straight record high yesterday and has a shot at extending that run in this session. However, the index lost 60 points in pre-market trading, suggesting a solidly lower start to the stock market today. Wall Street could find early direction from global stocks, which fell overnight. Europe's Stoxx index, for example, was down 0.8% as of 8:30 a.m. EDT.

Meanwhile, news is breaking this morning on Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) and Ulta Salon (NASDAQ: ULTA  ) stocks, which could both see heavy trading in today's session.

Bank of America shares were down 1.4% in pre-market trading on news reports that its high-stakes legal negotiations with the Justice Department have stalled. The New York Times cited inside sources who said the government is looking for more than $17 billion in settlement penalties tied to prior mortgage loan abuses, but that the bank is offering substantially less. Investors have to brace for two painful prospects as these negotiations wind down: that BofA will ultimately accept a fine above the record $13 billion that JPMorgan Chase paid last year, or that a sprawling civil lawsuit will be filed against the company. 

Ulta Salon shareholders are in for a good day. The stock was up 12.3% in pre-market trading after the beauty retailer last night posted a 22% jump in fiscal first-quarter sales and a 19% profit improvement. Revenue climbed to $714 million while earnings clocked in at $0.77 a share (compared to last year's $0.65 haul). Powering those great results was a 20% boost in the store base as Ulta opened 21 new locations. Existing stores saw spiking traffic levels as well: comparable-store sales rose an impressive 9%. There wasn't much for investors to complain about in these quarterly results, although gross profit margin did tick lower by half of a percentage point to 34.5% of sales. Ulta reaffirmed its full-year outlook for comps growth of roughly 5% and total revenue growth in the "mid-teens percentage range." The company expects second-quarter sales to be about $710 million, or 18% above the prior-year period.

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