Purchasing manager surveys in Europe and Asia delivered disappointing results overnight, with the latest HSBC flash composite PMI for China dropping to 50.5 in April from 51.5 in March. In the eurozone, the Markit flash composite PMI for April came in at 46.5, unchanged from March. Relief that things weren't worse appears to have driven gains for most European markets this morning. At 7:40 a.m. EDT, France's CAC 40 was 2.3% higher, while the FTSE 100 was up by 1.1%, helped by an 8.5% gain for tech firm Arm Holdings, which released strong first-quarter results.
In the U.S., today's economic data also includes the latest PMI readings. April's Market Flash PMI is due at 9 a.m. EDT, and economists surveyed by Reuters expect a reading of 54, down from 54.6 in March. Other data due today includes the FHFA home price index for February, at 9 a.m. EDT, and new-home sales figures for March, at 10 a.m. EDT. Sales of new homes are expected to have risen to 421,000 last month from 411,000 in February.
It's a big day for earnings, and companies releasing results before this morning's opening bell include Xerox, which reported a 17% increase in first-quarter earnings to $0.27. DuPont reported a 6% fall in first-quarter earnings to $1.47 per share, along with a 7% fall in first-quarter revenue, while United Technologies reported a 6% rise in first-quarter earnings to $1.39 per share. Lockheed Martin, AT&T Reynolds American, and Yum! Brands are also among those due to report today.
However, the big corporate news today will be Apple's second-quarter results, which are due after markets close tonight. Apple stock could be actively traded ahead of the closing bell amid intense speculation from investors over whether sales of the company's flagship iPhone 5 model have fallen off more rapidly than expected. Analysts' consensus forecasts indicate earnings per share of $9.98, down from $12.30 for the same period last year. Investors will also be keen to learn whether Apple has made a decision regarding the return of surplus cash to shareholders, although some analysts believe this is likely to come later in the year.
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Roland Head has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Lockheed Martin. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.