Stock Futures Point Higher Ahead of Numerous Earnings Reports

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By Sreeja VN

U.S. stock futures point to a higher open Wednesday, ahead of the publication of new home sales data and quarterly earnings statements from major American companies, including Facebook, Ford, PepsiCo, Qualcomm, Visa and Boeing.

Futures on the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) were up 0.2 percent, while futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) were up 0.3 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were up 0.9 percent.

Investors are expected to focus on new home sales data for June, to be released by the Commerce Department, at 10 a.m. Eastern time. Analysts expect new home sales -- the annualized number of new single-family homes that were sold during the previous month -- may probably increase to 485,000 in June from 476,000 in the previous month.
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New home sales had recorded a better-than-expected gain in May, helped by a pick-up in demand, while existing home sales data for June, which was released Monday, showed a decline. Analysts attributed the fall to a recent hike in mortgage interest rates and believe new home sales could still increase in June.

"With the NAHB current sales index still rising strongly, we have penciled in an increase in new sales from 476,000 in May to 485,000," Paul Diggle, an economist with Capital Economics, wrote in a research note.

On the earnings front, a number of major companies, including Caterpillar (CAT), Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY), EMC Corp. (EMC), US Airways Group, (LCC), Ford (F), PepsiCo (PEP) and Boeing (BA), will announce quarterly earnings before market hours. Visa (V), Western Digital (WDC), Qualcomm (QCOM) and Facebook (FB) are to announce their earnings after markets close Wednesday.

Markit Economics' flash Purchasing Managers' Index, or PMI, for the manufacturing sector in the month of July, is scheduled to be released at 9 a.m. Eastern time. The index, which measures the activity level of purchasing managers in the manufacturing sector, is expected to show a reading of 52.5 in July, up from the 51.9 recorded in June. A reading below 50 indicates contraction.

European markets were trading higher Wednesday, as investor sentiments were buoyed after flash PMIs for the euro zone's manufacturing and services sectors beat expectations. The 17-nation eurozone's manufacturing PMI for July came in at 50.1 compared to 48.8 in the previous month. The services PMI registered a reading of 49.6 compared to 48.3 in June.

Germany's manufacturing PMI came in at 50.3 in July, up from 48.6 in June while the nation's services PMI was at 52.5 in July, up from 50.4 in June. Meanwhile, in neighboring France, while the PMIs stayed in contraction territory, they showed a slowdown in the pace of contraction with the country's manufacturing PMI recording 49.8 in July, up from 48.4 in June while France's services PMI was at 48.3 in July, up from 47.2 in June.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 0.6 percent, London's FTSE 100 was up 0.7 percent, Germany's DAX-30 was up 0.6 percent and France's CAC-40 was trading up 0.9 percent.

In China, HSBC's Flash Manufacturing PMI for July, released Wednesday, showed that the manufacturing sector of the world's second-largest economy contracted for a third-straight month and at its quickest pace since last August.

The preliminary reading of the survey for July at 47.7 -- an 11-month low -- was against market expectations for the PMI to hold steady at 48.2, and China's Shanghai Composite index fell 1.3 percent after the news in mid-morning trade, but trimmed losses to end down 0.5 percent. However, the PMI data failed to significantly impact other markets in the region as the disappointing numbers sparked hopes that Beijing would launch stimulus measures soon.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index closed up 0.2 percent while South Korea's KOSPI Composite index ended up 0.4 percent and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.4 percent.

India's BSE Sensex was trading down 1.2 percent in late-afternoon trade Wednesday, after the Reserve Bank of India took measures to tighten liquidity in the banking system to arrest the rupee's free fall against the dollar. In Japan, the Nikkei lost 0.3 percent after the yen strengthened against the U.S. dollar.

Earlier on Wednesday, Japan reported a 7.4 percent jump in exports helped by a weaker yen, which has depreciated more than 27 percent against the dollar during the past year. However, the data disappointed markets as analysts had expected exports to grow by 10.3 percent.


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Stock Futures Point Higher Ahead of Numerous Earnings Reports

Warren Buffett is a great investor, but what makes him rich is that he's been a great investor for two thirds of a century. Of his current $60 billion net worth, $59.7 billion was added after his 50th birthday, and $57 billion came after his 60th. If Buffett started saving in his 30s and retired in his 60s, you would have never heard of him. His secret is time.

Most people don't start saving in meaningful amounts until a decade or two before retirement, which severely limits the power of compounding. That's unfortunate, and there's no way to fix it retroactively. It's a good reminder of how important it is to teach young people to start saving as soon as possible.

Future market returns will equal the dividend yield + earnings growth +/- change in the earnings multiple (valuations). That's really all there is to it.

The dividend yield we know: It's currently 2%. A reasonable guess of future earnings growth is 5% a year. What about the change in earnings multiples? That's totally unknowable.

Earnings multiples reflect people's feelings about the future. And there's just no way to know what people are going to think about the future in the future. How could you?

If someone said, "I think most people will be in a 10% better mood in the year 2023," we'd call them delusional. When someone does the same thing by projecting 10-year market returns, we call them analysts.

Someone who bought a low-cost S&P 500 index fund in 2003 earned a 97% return by the end of 2012. That's great! And they didn't need to know a thing about portfolio management, technical analysis, or suffer through a single segment of "The Lighting Round."

Meanwhile, the average equity market neutral fancy-pants hedge fund lost 4.7% of its value over the same period, according to data from Dow Jones Credit Suisse Hedge Fund Indices. The average long-short equity hedge fund produced a 96% total return -- still short of an index fund.

Investing is not like a computer: Simple and basic can be more powerful than complex and cutting-edge. And it's not like golf: The spectators have a pretty good chance of humbling the pros.

Most investors understand that stocks produce superior long-term returns, but at the cost of higher volatility. Yet every time -- every single time -- there's even a hint of volatility, the same cry is heard from the investing public: "What is going on?!"

Nine times out of ten, the correct answer is the same: Nothing is going on. This is just what stocks do.

Since 1900 the S&P 500 (^GSPC) has returned about 6% per year, but the average difference between any year's highest close and lowest close is 23%. Remember this the next time someone tries to explain why the market is up or down by a few percentage points. They are basically trying to explain why summer came after spring.

Someone once asked J.P. Morgan what the market will do. "It will fluctuate," he allegedly said. Truer words have never been spoken.

The vast majority of financial products are sold by people whose only interest in your wealth is the amount of fees they can sucker you out of.

You need no experience, credentials, or even common sense to be a financial pundit. Sadly, the louder and more bombastic a pundit is, the more attention he'll receive, even though it makes him more likely to be wrong.

This is perhaps the most important theory in finance. Until it is understood you stand a high chance of being bamboozled and misled at every corner.

"Everything else is cream cheese."
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