) --


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Research In Motion


are among a handful of companies widely known by consumers that are scheduled to report quarterly results Thursday.


will headline premarket activity when it reports fiscal second-quarter earnings before the start of trading. Earlier this month, the shipping giant said it expects to report a profit of $1.10 a share, down 30% from its year-ago results but better than its previous guidance range of 65 cents to 95 cents a share.

The Thomson Reuters average estimate is for a profit of $1.05 a share, up from the consensus target of 85 cents a share in place before FedEx raised its guidance.

In addition to FedEx,

General Mills

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Rite Aid

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Discover Financial

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Pier 1 Imports

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are on tap to release quarterly results before Thursday's opening bell.

Research In Motion

, on the other hand, will provide the fireworks at the end of Thursday's trading session. The BlackBerry maker should report a profit of $1.04 a share, up from 83 cents a share in the year-ago period, according to a poll of analysts by Thomson Reuters.

Research In Motion's third-quarter release will come at the same time as reports from fellow smartphone maker

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and video-game maker

Take-Two Interactive

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In addition to Thursday's slate of earnings reports, the week's final round of economic data will be released. At 8:30 a.m. EST, the Labor Department will post weekly initial jobless claims data, which economists expect will show a decline to 465,000 claims from 474,000 in the week prior.

At 10 a.m. EST, the Conference Board will release the November read on leading economic indicators, which should rise 0.7% after a 0.3% increase in October. At the same time, the Philadelphia

Federal Reserve

will release the December reading on its manufacturing index, which should slip to 16 from 16.7 last month.

Meanwhile, investors will also be watching a Senate confirmation hearing for Ben Bernanke's reappointment as chairman of the Federal Reserve. On Wednesday,


reported that Senate Banking Panel member Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.) said he will vote against Bernanke's confirmation. He joins Sen. Bernie Sanders, an outspoken critic of the central bank, who has said he will not approve Bernanke's reappointment.

And as Friday marks the day that contracts for stock index futures, stock index options, stock options and single stock futures all expire, known as "quadruple witching," traders will be watching trading activity closely. Leading up to these options expiration days, volatility typically increases and moves markets.

-- Written by Robert Holmes in Boston


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