NEW YORK (
) -- The rally in stocks may have lost some steam since last week but the commentary continues to trickle in about the
bold stimulus plan being a game-changer.
Sharon Stark, chief market strategist at Sterne Agee, thinks QE3 could be the longest of the Fed's post-financial crisis asset purchase programs and she's expecting the central bank to begin buying Treasuries outright in 2013 with its extension of Operation Twist running out at the end of the year.
Her advice is for money managers to continue to be overweight in equities "with an emphasis on financials, energy and transportation" and she sees the fiscal cliff as moving "to the forefront on the risk spectrum."
Meantime, Wells Fargo wasn't moved enough by the Fed to lift its expectations for the
to finish 2012 in the 1400-1450 range vs. Tuesday's close at 1459 but the firm also acknowledged the wisdom of a well-known market axiom.
"In the current cycle, the overall evidence has been that the Fed's quantitative easing programs have tended to generally benefit equities and some other assets like commodities," the firm said in its weekly equity commentary on Tuesday. "Thus far it has remained the case that investors should not fight the Fed when it is buying financial assets in the marketplace."
With the Fed pledging to keep battling it out even after the U.S. economy strengthens, investors sitting on the sidelines or betting against equities up until now may want to think about saving some face and going along for the ride.
As for Wednesday's scheduled news, aside from the drama of whether
Bed, Bath & Beyond
is set to report its fiscal second-quarter results after the closing bell. The average estimate of analysts polled by
is for a profit of $1.02 a share in the August-ended period on revenue of $2.54 billion.
Shares of the Union, N.J.-based home products retailer are up more than 18% so far in 2012, although the stock has pulled back since hitting a 52-week high of $75.84 on June 19. The company has topped the consensus view in the past eight quarters and the sell side remains mostly bullish with 16 of the 28 analysts covering the shares at either strong buy (11) or buy (5). The median 12-month price target sits at $75, implying potential upside of 9.7% from Tuesday's close at $68.39, which reflects a 3.4% drop on the day.
Jefferies, which has a buy rating and a $78 price target, lifted its same-store sales estimate for the quarter to 5% growth from 3.5% ahead of the print.
"A good back-to-college performance likely helped comp sales trends in 2Q reaccelerate and exceed the high end of the 2%-4% plan," the firm wrote in its preview on Tuesday. "A 5%-6% gain should be enough to satisfy investors, but it may take more to push the shares higher from here in the near term. An easy 3Q compare provides some cover, but the setup into 4Q could start to look challenging unless trends continue to show improvement."
That concern about the fourth-quarter sales build seems to be what's keeping the firm's expectations in check when it comes to potential upside in the stock.
"Stronger sales outperformance may be necessary to move these shares higher," Jefferies said. "The market bid up anything with exposure to housing over the past few months and this, together with positive technical signals earlier in the quarter, likely brought many trading-orientedaccounts into long positions in BBBY. We are therefore anticipating some pressure from profit taking if the comp isn't better than a mid-single digit gain."
Check out TheStreet's quote page for Bed, Bath & Beyond for year-to-date share performance, analyst ratings, earnings estimates and much more.
Other companies reporting their results include
Wednesday's economic calendar features the Mortgage Bankers Association's weekly application activity index at 7 a.m. ET; housing starts and building permits for August at 8:30 a.m. ET; existing home sales for August at 10 a.m. ET, and weekly crude inventories data at 10:30 a.m. ET.
, meanwhile, wasn't getting much love in Tuesday's after-hours session despite announcing plans for a 15% dividend hike.
The software giant said its board has approved a quarterly dividend of 23 cents a share, payable on Dec. 13 to shareholders of record on Nov. 15. That's a boost of 3 cents from its current payout, and implies a healthy forward annual yield of 2.95% based on the stock's closing price of $31.17 on Tuesday.
Microsoft also said Raymond Gilmartin, former chairman, president and CEO of
, plans to retire from its board. The stock was last quoted at $31.18, up a penny, on extended volume of 1 million, according to
, after going as low as $31.04.
said David Viniar plans to
in January 2013.
Viniar, who will join Goldman's board, is to be succeeded by Harvey Schwartz, the current co-head of the company's security division, at that time.
The shares, which are up more than 30% so far in 2012, were down 48 cents at $119.40 on late volume of around 75,000.
Written by Michael Baron in New York.
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