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Market Preview: Placing Bets on QE3

The hot topic Friday though is likely the fallout from Facebook (FB - Get Report), which no one seems to like these days.

Shares of the social networking giant fell more than 8% in Thursday's regular session then dived another 10% in after-hours action as an in-line profit was nowhere near impressive enough for Wall Street. The thing about Facebook is it's just starting life as a public company and in order to justify its current $50 billion-plus market cap (that's with the stock down nearly 30% from its IPO pricing and before Thursday's extended session decline) as well as a pricey forward price-to-earnings ratio of 41X, just meeting expectations isn't enough.

Company executives, including hoodie-wearing CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself, paid plenty of lip service to making inroads into mobile on the conference call, promising apps within apps and nixing the idea that Facebook needs to build its own smartphone. Whether any of that works (and results in real revenue momentum) remains to be seen but it's hard to escape the feeling that monetization is going to be an uphill battle, especially with Twitter in ascendance. Not offering an outlook just feeds into those doubts too.

The stock was last quoted at $23.80, down 11.3%, on heavy volume of 18.1 million, hitting a new all-time low of $23.75 in the after-hours session.

As for Friday's scheduled news, there are two more quarterly reports from Dow components on the docket, Chevron (CVX) and Merck (MRK). The average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters is for earnings of $3.24 a share on revenue of $$68.56 billion from Chevron, while the consensus view is for Merck to post a profit of $1.01 a share on revenue of $12.15 billion.

D.R. Horton (DHI - Get Report) is also due to open its books and shares of the Fort Worth, Texas homebuilder are still sitting within shouting distance of Monday's 52-week high of $19.35. The stock is up more than 40% so far in 2012, so its earnings need to fulfill the promise of that rebound from the wreckage of the financial crisis. The appreciation has pushed the forward price-to-earnings ratio on the stock up to 20.1X.

The average analysts' view is for a profit of 20 cents a share in the company's fiscal third quarter ended in June on revenue of $1.18 billion. That compares to earnings of 13 cents a share on revenue of $961.2 million in the second quarter and earnings of 9 cents a share on revenue of $999.2 million in the same period a year earlier.

The sell side is split with 11 analysts at either strong buy (3) or buy (8) and the other 11 analysts at hold (9) or sell (2). The median 12-month price target of $19 points to valuation as a bone of contention with the stock closing Thursday's regular session at $18.80.

Citigroup thinks the homebuilders as a group may have gotten ahead of themselves and the firm is expecting names in the sector to grind lower over the next few months.

"We expect homebuilder stocks to continue the valuation correction period post the 48% YTD (mean) run in the stocks," Citigroup said Thursday. "We remain constructive on a prolonged multi-year recovery in housing starts/sales, but we continue to believe that homebuilder stocks, on average, are not discounting in the number of years it may take to return to mid-cycle starts/sales."

As for D.R. Horton, the firm is predicting another above-consensus performance.

"We project revenue of $1,208MM, housing GM of 17.5%, housing SG&A of 10.6%, and EPS of $0.28, versus consensus of $1,177 million, 17.0%, 11.7%, and $0.20, respectively. We project net orders of 5,545 units, closings of 5,323 units, and an ending backlog of 6,411 units, versus Street expectations for net orders of 5,615, closings of 5,310, and a backlog of 6,487," Citigroup said.

Check out TheStreet's quote page for D.R. Horton for year-to-date share performance, analyst ratings, earnings estimates and much more.
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