The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) gained four points in pre-market trading, suggesting a flat start to the stock market today. World indexes posted gains overnight: Asian shares rose by 1% while Europe's Stoxx index was higher by 0.1% as of 8:30 a.m. EDT. The Dow could find some direction from today's fresh jobs data. The Labor Department said this morning that initial unemployment claims last week fell slightly to a seasonally adjusted 312,000, a bit better than the 315,000 claims that economists had expected.
Lennar today posted surprisingly strong quarterly profit and sales figures. The homebuilder's revenue leapt higher by 27% to $1.8 billion, while analysts had expected a more modest sales gain of 18%. Earnings clocked in at $0.61 a share, $0.10 above Wall Street's target. The company saw strong demand for new houses and delivered 8% more homes in the quarter. And a 14% increase in average selling prices helped Lennar book a record-high operating margin. CEO Stuart Miller said in a press release that despite a "softer than anticipated" spring selling season, the homebuilding rebound "continued its progression at a slow and steady pace." Miller also highlighted some favorable trends that should power profitable growth going forward, including limited housing supply and high affordability levels. Lennar's stock was up 0.7% in pre-market trading.
Packaged foods giant ConAgra Foods today posted an 8% year-over-year decline in adjusted earnings and a 3% dip in revenue for its fiscal fourth quarter. While those figures were consistent with preliminary results issued last week, today's report shows just how much the consumer foods business is struggling. Traditionally popular brands like Healthy Choice, Orville Redenbacher's, and Chef Boyardee saw slumping demand, which helped push ConAgra's consumer foods volume lower by 7%. CEO Gary Rodkin warned in a press release that some of these same problems should persist into the next few quarters, which will make fiscal 2015 a "year of stabilization and recovery." However, the stock may have priced in most of this bad news already, and shares were up 1.5% in pre-market trading.
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