Dow May Edge Higher on Jobless Claims and Earnings


LONDON -- Stock index futures at 7 a.m. EST indicate that the Dow Jones Industrial Average may open 0.1% higher this morning, while the S&P 500 may open up 0.2%.

Today's economic data kicks off with the weekly jobless-claim figures at 8:30 a.m. EST. Analysts' consensus forecasts suggest that 360,000 new claims were made last week, down slightly from 368,000 the previous week. Also due at 8:30 a.m. EST, productivity data for the final quarter of 2012 is expected to show a drop of 1.5%, down from a gain of 2.9% in the previous quarter, while unit labor costs during the same period are expected to have risen by 3.5% after falling 1.9% in the previous quarter. Finally, at 3 p.m. EST, December's consumer credit figures are due; analysts are forecasting a rise of $13 billion after a $16.5 billion increase in November.

In the absence of any major surprises in the data, today's earnings reports will be the main focus of investors' activities. Health insurer Cigna reported fourth-quarter income of $1.41 per share and increased its 2013 guidance to between $5.85 and $6.30 per share, saying that revenue growth and cost controls had helped profits. Other companies due to release earnings data before the opening bell include Coca-Cola Enterprises, Snap-On, Philip Morris International, Sprint Nextel, New York Times, and Scripps Networks Interactive.

Stocks that could be active when markets open include Yelp, which missed expectations in its quarterly report last night and was down by 3% in after-hours trading last night. Among those due to report after markets close tonight are Hasbro, LinkedIn Corp, Molina Healthcare, NCR and Republic Services.

European markets
The European Central Bank and the Bank of England both held their monthly monetary-policy meetings this morning. The Bank of England left its rates and QE program unchanged, and ECB President Mario Draghi will hold a press conference at 9:30 a.m. EST to answer questions about the current outlook in the eurozone.

At 7:40 a.m. EST, the DAX was up 0.45%, the CAC 40 was up 0.18%, the FTSE MIB was up 0.87%, and the IBEX 35 was up 1.15%. In London, the FTSE 100 was down 0.31%, despite a 1.8% gain by mobile operator Vodafone, which confirmed that it expects full-year adjusted operating profit to be toward the upper end of its guidance. Fashion brand Burberry was at the bottom of the table, down 4.7% after revealing that its CFO is stepping down.

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Roland Head owns shares in Vodafone but does not own shares in any of the other companies mentioned in this article. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of LinkedIn, Vodafone Group, Scripps Networks Interactive, Republic Services, Hasbro, and Coca-Cola. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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