Updated from 8:16 p.m. ET to include references to President Obama's State of the Union address and Nvidia's warning
NEW YORK (
) -- Wall Street will have plenty of news to ponder when the stock market reconvenes on Wednesday.
On the bullish side of the ledger, there's
, which destroyed the lofty consensus view and sparked an
that pushed the company's market capitalization past that of
in ongoing battle for world's biggest company.
At the same time, the
open market committee is set to announce the results of its first two-day meeting Wednesday afternoon. No one expects the central bank to budge on its interest rate target, but there is some sentiment out there that QE3 could arrive.
showed some trepidation may be creeping back into the psyche of investors. The
Dow Jones Industrial Average
fell for a second straight session, and the
surrendered a five-day positive streak as the latest round of talks about restructuring Greece's debt remained stalled.
With the Dow up 3.8% and the S&P 500 advancing 4.5% on a price basis so far in 2012, there's room to fall if Ben Bernanke & Co. are more circumspect about future asset purchases than those with their fingers cross for more QE like. This is the debut of the Fed's new expanded communications strategy, adding some drama (and perhaps heightening expectations) for the meeting.
notes the Fed will be publishing forecasts for short-term interest rates, along with "a more explicit target for inflation and possibly even the unemployment rate as well." This has introduced a bit of a wild card element to how Wednesday's meeting could shake out.
"The big question is whether Fed officials will use these changes as an opportunity to introduce a third round of quantitative easing (QE3) at the same time," wrote analyst Paul Ashworth. "Despite the improvement apparent in the recent economic data, officials have recently been at pains to stress how desperate they are to see a turnaround in the still depressed housing market.
Ashworth doesn't expect an announcement of QE3 tomorrow, but he wouldn't rule it out either.
"On balance, we suspect that the Fed will probably wait another few months beforeintroducing QE3, but it is a close call," he said. "We certainly wouldn't rule out the possibility of an immediate announcement this week."
There's also the market reaction to President Barack Obama's
to consider. The health of the economy and ways to keep things moving in the right direction were front and center as Obama focused on helping the middle class, advocating the extension of the payroll tax cut as well as higher taxes for wealthy Americans.
The president covered a lot of ground in his speech -- detailing tax relief plans for American manufacturers, calling for multinational companies to pay a minimum tax, proclaiming support for clean energy and infrastructure projects, and unveiling a plan for the banks to be saddled with a fee to fund a sweeping home refinancing initiative, among other things -- and it'll be interesting to see how different sectors react to the news.
Apple's report should give a lift to futures (assuming Greece doesn't implode in the interim), but the policy statement coming out of the Fed meeting at 12:30 p.m. ET may rule the day.
If it helps,
crunched the numbers and says the S&P 500 is up 65% of the time on FOMC days with the average gain at 0.36%.
Meantime, earnings seasons continues to grind on, and another lightning rod of a company is slated to open its books after Wednesday's closing bell.
has been the best performer in the
in 2012, rising more than 35%, but now the stock is up against its first real trading event of the year. The DVD-by-mail and online streaming subscription company is reporting its fiscal fourth-quarter results, and the average estimate of analysts polled by
is for earnings of 55 cents a share on revenue of $857.9 million.
What's frustrating for Netflix bulls is that this is expected to be the company's last profitable quarter for a while as it amps up spending on its international expansion efforts in Latin America and the United Kingdom.
Netflix itself said in a regulatory filing that it expects to be in the red for all of 2012. Despite the stock's gangbusters' start to this year, it's still down 50% in the past year, and Tuesday's regular session close at $92.67 is 70% below the 52-week high of $304.79 dating back to July 13.
Wall Street remains extremely skeptical that CEO Reed Hastings is anywhere close to righting the ship. Of the 35 analysts covering the shares, 29 are bearish at either hold (19), underperform (7), or sell (3), and the 12-month median target is an unseemly $80.
It's rare to see such open pessimism on the buy side, but the overhang of the international business is considerable, according to Sterne Agee, which previewed the report on Monday. The firm, which has a neutral rating on the stock, says Netflix could conceivably deliver a positive surprise in the latest quarter, but doesn't believe this will make much of an impact on the shares, given the uncertainty about business abroad.
"We believe 4Q results have the potential for upside versus consensus," Sterne Agee wrote. "However, we also believe shares are likely to remain range bound until there is clarity with respect to the timing of the return to profitability internationally. Consensus 2012 EPS estimate of $0.25 appears high and we continue to project a full-year loss of $0.54."
Dougherty & Co. is expecting a profit of 44 cents a share in the December quarter from Netflix on revenue of $842.1 million, below consensus on both counts. The firm, which has a neutral rating on the stock with a $90 price target, is expecting some subscriber growth in the period but is also of the opinion that international losses "will tell the tale" for the stock in 2012.
"Our model calls for the company to end the quarter with 24.2M paid subs (22.2M streaming and 2.0M DVD), a net addition of 400K," Dougherty said late last week in its preview, adding later: "While the domestic business appears to be rebounding, aggressive spending in the UK and Ireland is likely to lead to losses for the full year of 2012 ... We believe it will take a couple of quarters for investors to gain confidence that subscriber traction in these new markets will be sufficient to offset the substantial up-front costs and put the company back on the track to profitability."
And in the interim, the firm thinks no Netflix position is probably the right Netflix position.
"While we still believe Netflix has the potential to build a powerful global business, 2012 is likely to be ugly and with little visibility into the profit ramp beyond this intense investment period, we are going to stay on the sidelines with our Neutral rating," Dougherty said.
Check out TheStreet's quote page for Netflix for year-to-date share performance, analyst ratings, earnings estimates and much more.
Wednesday also brings quarterly reports from Dow components,
, which will both release their latest numbers before the opening bell.
The average estimate of analysts polled by
is for Boeing to report earnings of $1.01 a share for the December-ended quarter on revenue of $19.37 billion. Boeing was one of the Dow's best performers in 2011, rising 12.4%, and sentiment is still pretty positive with 23 of the 32 analysts covering the stock rating it at strong buy (10) or buy (13).
D.A. Davidson & Co. rates Boeing at hold though with an $80 price target with the firm's main concern being a murky outlook for the U.S. defense spending. It has some hope that international orders will pick up the slack, but is still modeling for below-consensus earnings of 96 cents a share in the quarter on revenue of $18.3 billion.
"Boeing recently signed a purchase agreement worth an estimated $29 billion for F-15s from Saudi Arabia," the firm noted in its earnings preview on Jan. 19. "The cloudy outlook on the U.S. Defense front will hopefully be offset by increased foreign military sales."
On the conference call, D.A. Davidson will be listening for "an update on the 737 MAX program, expectations for 747-8 / 787 deliveries in 2012, and the order outlook for 2012. Boeing is in the midst of increasing production rates on many commercialprograms and we hope to hear details on the transition to higher rates."
For its part, United Technologies wasn't a help to the Dow in 2011, falling more than 7%. The average estimate of analysts polled by
is for fourth-quarter earnings of $1.46 a share on revenue of $15.07 billion.
The shares have bounced more than 5% so far this year, pushing the stock's forward annual dividend yield to 2.5%, and most of Wall Street is bullish with 18 of 22 analysts covering United Technologies at either strong buy (7) or buy (11), and the median 12-month price target at $87.50, implying potential upside of 12.5% from Tuesday's regular session close at $77.78.
Check out TheStreet's quote page for United Technologies for year-to-date share performance, analyst ratings, earnings estimates and much more.
Other big names slated for early Wednesday include
Automatic Data Processing
Delta Air Lines
Hudson City Bancorp
St. Jude Medical
The late show features
Stanley Black & Decker
The economic calendar is light on Wednesday with the Mortage Bankers Association weekly index of application activity due at 7 a.m. ET; along with pending home sales for December, the Federal Housing Finance Agency housing price index for November, and crude inventories all at 10 a.m. ET.
was a star in after-hours action after the provider of IT management software and services announced a trifecta of good news.
The company is looking to return $2.5 billion to shareholders in the next two years, and it announced a dividend increase and buyback program to go along with strong quarterly results.
will also be in focus after the graphics chip maker cut its revenue outlook late Tuesday. The company now sees revenue of $950 million, plus or minus 1%. Wall Street's consensus is at $1.06 billion for the fiscal fourth quarter, roughly in line with Nvidia's original forecast.
Written by Michael Baron in New York.
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