Elsewhere on the data front, the Institute of Supply Management's non-manufacturing index for May plays second fiddle on Friday. This data on the health of service-based business shows up at 10:00 a.m. ET, and the consensus is for expansion to 53.5 from 52.8 in April but this report isn't likely to stand out much this time around. As always, a reading above 50 indicates the non-manufacturing sector is generally expanding, while a reading below represents contraction.
Still, a more old-school discounter will be generating some headlines of its own on Friday as Wal-Mart (WMT) holds its annual shareholders' meeting in Bentonville, Ark. TheStreet will be live-blogging the event, which comes with the stock roughly flat since the start of 2011. While the Dow component is expected to outline a number of strategic plans, the big question mark is still when will it be able to jumpstart domestic same-store sales.
Coincidentally, while Wal-Mart stopped reporting its monthly same-store sales two years ago this month, the retailers who still cling to the practice did so on Thursday and the results were mixed the overall May performance came in a bit light.Thomson Reuters was looking for an overall increase of 5.4%, and with 24 of the 25 companies it follows having reported, it's tracking for a rise of 4.9% for the month with Walgreen Co. (WAG) still due to provide its numbers on Friday. In its commentary, Thomson Reuters noted that the performance was still an improvement from a 2.6% boost in May 2010, and saw some positives for June. "Unseasonably cool and wet weather during the month hurt consumer traffic," wrote analyst Jharrone Martis-Olivio in a research report. "However, business improved for retailers toward the end of May as the weather turned warmer during the Memorial Day weekend, which could benefit June sales." Two retailers at opposite ends of the demand spectrum were listed as "May standouts" in the analysis -- upscale department store operator Saks (SKS), which benefited from a "Friends and Family" event; and warehouse retailer Costco Wholesale (COST), which Thomson Reuters said continues to see a boost from foreign exchange currencies and gasoline inflation. Other companies that topped expectations included The Buckle (BKE), BJ's Wholesale Club (BJ) and Macy's (M). Zumiez (ZUMZ) edged the consensus view but its shares were whacked, mainly on valuation concerns, as the shares of the Everett, Wash.-based seller of action sports-related apparel are up more than 50% in the past year. The after-hours action on Thursday saw slight declines in Verifone Systems (PAY) and Diamond Foods (DNMD) following their quarterly reports and not much else, and the earnings calendar is light once again on Friday with American Woodmark (AMWD) and Blyth (BTH) among the few names expected to open their books. Wall Street is looking for a loss of 21 cents a share from American Woodmark, a Winchester, Va.-based maker of kitchen cabinets whose stock has dropped 22% since the start of the year. Blyth, a Greenwich, Conn.-based company known for its PartyLite candle brand, may not have enough analyst coverage to produce a consensus estimate but its stock is still outperforming the broad market, up around 30% in 2011. --Written by Michael Baron in New York.
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