European markets made little progress this morning ahead of today's European Central Bank interest rate announcement, which many analysts expect could include a 0.25% cut to the bank's current 0.75% refinancing rate. This morning's eurozone economic reports were also downbeat: The eurozone manufacturing PMI fell to 46.7 in April, down slightly from 46.8 in March and indicating continued contraction. In London, the FTSE 100 was broadly unchanged as gains for Royal Dutch Shell and BG Group, which both posted positive quarterly updates, were canceled out by falls for heavyweight miners including BHP Billiton and Randgold Resources.
Investors in the U.S. will also be focused on the ECB's decision, which is due at 7:45 a.m. EDT, but will be closely watching the news from home. The latest weekly jobless-claims report is due at 8:30 a.m. EDT and is expected to show that new claims rose to 345,000 last week, up from 339,000 the previous week. Other data due at 8:30 a.m. EDT today includes the Federal trade deficit for March, which is expected to have fallen to $42 billion from $43 billion, and the first-quarter productivity report, which is expected to show that productivity rose by 0.9% in the first quarter of this year after falling 1.9% in the final quarter of last year.
Corporate earnings will also be a big draw today, with a number of big names scheduled to report. Highlights due before the opening bell include General Motors, which is expected to report earnings of $0.54 per share. Cardinal Health reported a 28% increase in adjusted fiscal third-quarter earnings per share, which rose to $1.20 from $0.94 for the same period last year despite a 9% fall in revenue. Other names reporting before the open include Kellogg, International Paper, Actavis, Becton Dickinson, and Marsh & McLennan, while Dole Food, Estee Lauder, Kraft Foods, American International Group, Fortune Brands Home Security, and Beazer Homes are also among a long list of companies scheduled to deliver results later today.
Facebook stock may rise when trading starts after the social-networking firm reported a 38% increase in first-quarter sales, which rose to $1.46 billion, beating analysts' expectations of $1.44 billion. Mobile revenue accounted for 30% of advertising sales, up from 23% one year ago. Facebook stock is 1.5% higher in premarket trading this morning.
Finally, let's not forget that the Dow's daily movements can add up to serious long-term gains. Indeed, Warren Buffett recently wrote, "The Dow advanced from 66 to 11,497 in the 20th Century, a staggering 17,320% increase that materialized despite four costly wars, a Great Depression and many recessions." If you, like Buffett, are convinced of the long-term power of the Dow, you should read "5 Stocks To Retire On." Your long-term wealth could be transformed, even in this uncertain economy. Simply click here now to download this free, no-obligation report.
Roland Head owns shares in Royal Dutch Shell but does not own shares in any of the other companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool recommends American International Group, Becton Dickinson, Facebook, and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of American International Group and Facebook and has the following options: Long Jan 2014 $25 Calls on American International Group. 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.
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