The news was setting an optimistic tone for trading ahead of the Federal Reserve's upcoming policy announcement, which is due at 12:30 p.m. ET. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will meet the press after the announcement, adding to the drama of the day.
Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up by 35 points, or 51.4 points above fair value, at 12,994. Futures for the S&P 500 were 8.1 points higher, or 10.5 points above fair value, at 1378, and futures for the Nasdaq were ahead by 50.5 points, or 48.7 points above fair value, at 2683.
Futures hardly reacted to a weak report on durable goods orders in March. The Commerce Department said orders fell 4.2% last month following a downwardly-revised gain of 1.9% in February. The reading was the biggest decline in durable goods orders since January 2009 and much worse than the 1.7% decline expected by economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters. Excluding the transportation component, orders were down 1.1%."[W]e simply do not believe the weakness indicated by durable goods orders -- ISM new orders averaged 55.7 in the first quarter (the strongest since the second quarter of 2011) versus 54.4 in the fourth quarter, Fed data show durable goods manufactured production up 15.6% in the first quarter (the second strongest reading in 14 years) versus 9.1% in the fourth quarter, and hours worked for durable goods factory production workers rose 8.7% in the first quarter (the second strongest reading in almost 18 years) versus 4.3% in the fourth quarter," said RDQ Economics following the data. Wall Street finished mixed on Tuesday with the Dow pushed higher by positive earnings reports and a dividend hike from IBM (IBM). Nasdaq was tripped up by a 2% decline in Apple ahead of its report. The stock had fallen in 10 of the previous 11 sessions, losing roughly 10% along the way, with the weakness in part stemming from sell-side concerns about the iPhone. That weakness was forgotten Wednesday morning with Apple shares gaining nearly 10% in pre-market action to easily regain the $600 level. The company's fiscal second-quarter profit soared 93% year-over-year with heavy iPhone demand leading the way. Apple earned $12.30 a share in the March-ended period on revenue of $39.2 billion. Analysts were expecting earnings of $10.02 a share on revenue of $36.69 billion. About $22.7 billion of revenue was from sales of the iPhone. The company sold 35.1 million iPhones, 11.8 million iPads, 4 million Macs and 7.7 million iPods in the quarter. Wednesday brings the outcome of the Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting. A change on rates isn't expected, but the Federal Open Market Committee is expected to stick to its promise to keep interest rates at historic lows until at least late 2014. The Fed will announce its decision on rates at 12:30 p.m. EDT. In other corporate news, Baidu (BIDU), the Chinese Internet search company, said first-quarter earnings rose 76% but its revenue outlook for the second quarter was below Wall Street's estimates. Baidu forecast revenue of $847.2 million to $867 million for the second quarter; analysts are expecting revenue of $870 million. Shares were off 6% at $127.58. Caterpillar (CAT), the maker of construction and mining equipment, reported first-quarter profit Wednesday of $1.58 billion, or $2.37 a share, up from year-earlier earnings of $1.23 billion, or $1.84 a share. Analysts were estimating earnings of $2.13 a share from the Dow component. Shares were down 1.2% at $107.15. Boeing ( BA ) shares were adding 2.5% at $75.05 after the aircraft maker beat the average analysts' view as revenue rose 30%, largely reflecting increased commercial aircraft deliveries. Excluding items, the company earned $1.11 a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had estimated 94 cents. Security specialist Fortinet ( FTNT ) comfortably beat analysts' revenue estimate in its first-quarter results, released late on Tuesday. Shares of the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company climbed 5.48%, to $27.15 before market open. Overseas, Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.15% while Japan's Nikkei gained 0.98%. The FTSE in London was up by 0.21% and the DAX in Frankfurt was ahead by 1.22%. In commodity markets, the June crude oil contract was up by 48 cents to trade at $104.03 a barrel. The June gold contract was down by $2.40 to $1,641.40 an ounce. The dollar traded lower against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index down by 0.2%, and the benchmark 10-year Treasury note traded sideways at a yield of 1.983%
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