NEW YORK (
) -- The waiting game continues on Wall Street.
Tuesday was another ho-hum, low volume session as the major U.S. equity averages continue to digest the gains of the past two months and search for another positive catalyst to justify a move above the pre-financial crisis highs the
briefly breached in intraday action a week ago.
Scott Wren, senior equity strategist at Wells Fargo, offered up this description of the current mood in the markets late Tuesday.
"As the summer comes to an end, many investors are wondering what the rest of the year will bring," he wrote. "Most are anxious and more than a bit nervous. Others have been lulled to sleep by low stock trading volumes and a lack of any meaningful market movement in recent weeks."
Wren cautioned investors against getting too complacent though, pointing to some major happenings on the near-term horizon, namely the European Central Bank's next monetary policy meeting on Sept. 6 and the August U.S. jobs reports set for release on Sept. 7, as bearing close attention, saying "these events have the potential to rile the U.S. stock market" if their outcomes fall short of investor hopes.
"The market is anticipating that the ECB will be in the market buying the sovereign debt of Spain and Italy in the near future," he said. "Investors are looking for further hints as to the timing and are hoping that something will be announced beyond just a cut in the overnight lending rate."
If that doesn't come to pass, look out. Of the jobs report, Wren said market expectations are low so a negative surprise, if it happens, shouldn't be all that big a deal this time around. Europe is simply a bigger concern right now.
Further out, Sept. 12 is the next key date, according to Wren. Not only will the
be starting its next policy meeting, but there are two events in Europe to watch closely: Germany's constitutional court is slated to rule on whether the country can participate in a permanent eurozone bailout fund and the Dutch are holding elections. Wren thinks the ECB could hold off announcing any sovereign debt purchase plans until the German court ruling is in, and notes the eurozone also needs the Netherlands to participate in its bailout plans.
"So the current calm in the market could turn into a storm next month as events in Europe either satisfy investor demands for aggressive ECB action and cohesive agreement between key governments or else fall short of expectations," he wrote.
As for Wednesday's scheduled news,
is slated to report its fiscal second-quarter results after the closing bell. The average estimate of analysts polled by
is for a loss of 3 cents a share in the July-ended period on revenue of $100.9 million.
Shares of the Oakland, Calif.-based streaming music company are up 2% so far in 2012, but down 35%-plus from their initial pricing at $16 in mid-June 2011. The sell side is still slightly bullish though with 13 of the 24 analysts covering the stock at either strong buy (6) or buy (7) vs. 11 at either hold (8), underperform (2) or sell (1). The 12-month median price target sits at $13.50, implying potential upside of 32% from Tuesday's closing price of $10.18.
After posting surprise profits in its first two quarters as a public company, Pandora has ended up in the red the last two times around, missing Wall Street's consensus only once along the way. Earlier this month, the company announced listener hours totaled 1.12 billion for July, up 76% from the same period a year earlier with active listeners sitting at 54.9 million at month's end, an increase of 48% from a year ago.
Another quarterly report to watch on Wednesday is
, which is slated to release its numbers after the close. The stock is down nearly 30% since the start of the year, retreating since hitting a 52-week high of $45.91 in late October 2011.
Lazard lowered its 12-month price target on the shares to $34 from $40 this week ahead of the report but kept a buy rating and said it expects an in-line performance in the quarter. Wall Street's consensus view is for a profit of 35 cents a share in the July-ended quarter on revenue of $122.2 million, while Lazard is calling for earnings of 36 cents a share, at the top end of the company's own 34-36 cent guidance.
"Based on our store checks, the response to Fall 1 (Back-to-Campus, launched June 28) has been strong, with new items such as bedding, pillows, dorm room rugs, bath towels, lap desks, and iPhone and iPad covers selling well," the firm said. "The expanded assortment of back-packs (launched July 10) also appears to be selling well. We note that many of the smaller independent retailers didn't carry some of the new items such as bedding, pillows and dorm room rugs. We also believe orders for Fall 2 (Fall fashion, launching August 30) are below plan."
Lazard also cut its 2012 earnings estimate to $1.68 a share from $1.72 a share, citing anticipated weakness in the company's indirect business and said it expects management to provide third-quarter guidance that's below the current consensus estimate for a profit of 39 cents a share. Still, the firm likes the company's overall prospects for patient investors.
"Despite short-term issues, we believe the long-term thesis remains intact," the firm said. "We continue to see significant top- and bottom-line growth potential coming from: (1) expanded product offerings, (2) expansion into under-penetrated markets, (3) channel mix (to highermargin retail), and (4) supply chain optimization."
Check out TheStreet's quote page for Vera Bradley for year-to-date share performance, analyst ratings, earnings estimates and much more.
Other companies reporting on Wednesday include
Christopher & Banks
JoS. A. Bank Clothiers
The economic calendar is pretty stacked tomorrow with the Mortgage Bankers Association's weekly application activity index at 7 a.m. ET; the second estimate of second-quarter gross domestic product at 8:30 a.m. ET; pending home sales for July at 10 a.m. ET; weekly crude inventories at 10:30 a.m. ET; and the
beige book report on economic conditions at 2:00 p.m. ET.
was the big loser in late trades on Tuesday after the Palm Beach, Fla.-based contractor came in short of Wall Street's expectations for its fiscal fourth-quarter results.
The company, which provides engineering, manufacturing and construction services, reported earnings of $13.3 million, or 39 cents a share, for the July-ended quarter on revenue of $318 million. That performance was shy of the average estimate of analysts polled by
for a profit of 41 cents a share on revenue of $323.7 million.
The stock was last quoted at $16.40, down 13.1%, on volume of more than 75,000, according to
Written by Michael Baron in New York.
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