Dow Poised for New Highs as Staples and Big Lots Beat the Street


LONDON -- Stock index futures at 7 a.m. EST indicate that the Dow Jones Industrial Average may continue its record-breaking run and open up by 0.31% this morning, while the S&P 500 may open 0.34% higher. Yesterday's all-time high helped drive a big improvement in sentiment, and the CNN Fear & Greed Index swung higher to close at 71, up from a previous close of 60.

Today's economic reports begin at 8:15 a.m. EST with the latest ADP employment figures, which are expected to show that 175,000 new private-sector jobs were created in February, down from 192,000 in January. At 10 a.m. EST, January's factory-order data is expected to show a 2.2% fall in orders during the first month of 2013 following a 1.8% increase in December 2012. Finally, at 2 p.m. EST, the latest Federal Reserve Beige Book will provide further insight into the state of the economy.

In an earnings release this morning, Staples beat analysts' expectations with adjusted Q4 earnings of $0.46 per share, ahead of consensus forecast for $0.45. The office supplies company also announced a 9% increase to its quarterly dividend. However, including one-time charges, Staples earned just $0.12 per share, and the company gave downbeat guidance for 2013. Shares are down 5.2% in premarket trading.

Big Lots also beat expectations, reporting fourth-quarter adjusted earnings of $2.09, ahead of consensus estimates of $1.99 per share. Other companies expected to release quarterly earnings before the markets open this morning include American Eagle Outfitters, Fresh Market, and Hovnanian Enterprises, while PetSmart is due to report earnings after the closing bell tonight.

European markets
Most markets were broadly unchanged in Europe this morning as investors took stock of recent gains and awaited further developments in Europe -- particularly in Italy, where a new government has still not been formed following the country's recent elections.

At 7:30 a.m. EST, the DAX was up 1%, the CAC 40 was up 0.15%, the FTSE MIB was up 0.1%, and the IBEX 35 was up 0.34%. In London, the FTSE 100 was up 0.28%, led by telecom heavyweight Vodafone , whichsurged 6.8% higher after Bloomberg reported last night that the firm has been in discussions with Verizon over a possible merger. The report suggested that merger discussions had failed, leaving a sale to Verizon of Vodafone's 45% stake in Verizon Wireless as a more likely option.

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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. The Motley Fool owns shares of Staples. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of The Fresh Market, Vodafone Group, and PetSmart. 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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