NEW YORK (
) -- 'Tis the season when procrastinators converge on malls grabbing whatever heartfelt gifts are still in reach. With stocks lately though it's been the opposite.
Instead of last-minute shopping, it's last-minute selling with traders rushing for the exits as the afternoon wanes.
contributor James "Rev Shark" Deporre points out that the major U.S. equity indices now have a rather ignominious streak going, opening near the highs and closing near the lows for six sessions in a row.
"During that period of time we have lost nearly 5% overall but even more than that on an intraday basis," he
. "It has been a very unkind market for day traders lately unless they have stuck solely to the short side."
The action is squelching the enthusiasm of those still holding out for a Santa Claus rally, even there are still any of those folks still hanging around.
"Although volume has been quite light lately the selling pressure has been unrelenting and it taking a toll on the optimists who have been looking for some sort of year-end rally," Deporre writes. "If you have been overly anticipatory in looking for a turn you have been slaughtered and even if you are just lightly invested it has been tough to find any safe havens."
Uncertainty about Europe, that old standby, was the culprit for the market's swoon on Monday, proving yet again how little was really accomplished at the super summit 10 days ago.
Whether it's European Central Bank President Mario Draghi once more making it clear he's not planning on a big bond-buying program, or the European Union's underwhelming 150-billion-euro statement of support for the International Monetary Fund, this is still an environment where every rally is vulnerable because there is still no concrete plan in place.
As has been noted
previously, the continuing weakness in the banks is a real problem for those who want to believe the broad market is in good shape because earnings have held up well and U.S. economic data is starting to improve.
Bank of America
closing below $5 for the first time since March 2009 when the market was still feeling the after-shocks of the financial crisis isn't the end of the world but it's also not something to be ignored as a company-specific issue either.
Bank of America is a Dow component after all, and between the worries about the burdens of more regulation and reserve-building stateside, and what the impact of a Europe's debt crisis boiling over would be on the global economy, it's hard to find a compelling reason to scoop up the stock. Warren Buffett is already
on the flyer he took with Brian Moynihan, so he's likely tapped out.
As for Tuesday,
reports its fiscal second-quarter results after Tuesday's closing bell, and the average estimate of analysts polled by
is for a profit of 97 cents a share in the November-ended period on revenue of $5.63 billion.
The stock has held up well in 2011, rising nearly 10%, and hitting a 52-week high of $98.25 on Dec. 9. Wall Street is bullish on the company, which is facing a challenge to manage the impact of higher product costs on gross margins. Of the 21 analysts covering the stock, 13 have either strong buy (7) or buy (6) ratings, and the 12-month median price target is $105, implying potential upside of 12%-plus from Monday's close at $93.38.
Jefferies, which has a buy rating on the shares with a price target of $115, previewed the quarter on Friday, saying it thinks Nike could beat its above-consensus earnings estimate of $1.01 a share as price increases begin to show up in the bottom line. The firm thinks this trend should hold into 2012 as well.
"After facing elevated product costs throughout most of this year, Nike is now raising prices and returning to an expanding gross margin cycle," Jefferies said. "We expect this combination, along with aggressive stock buybacks, to create an upward sales and earnings bias over the next twelve months. Higher prices, the Summer Olympics, EU Championship and the NFL uniform deal create an extremely visible sales line for calendar 2012."
Nike's inventory and futures orders figures are always a focus for Wall Street, so those numbers will get their due attention. Last quarter, inventories totaled $3.1 billion as of Aug. 31, up 41% from last year, while futures orders for the September-January period came in at $8.5 billion, up 16% from last year.
For its part, Jefferies said it's going to be paying particular attention to how business in China looks.
"This is, in our opinion, Nike's most important region after the U.S. with 10% of sales and 15% of profits," the firm said. "Data out of China has been mixed and last quarter's apparel miss (due to product repositioning) raised a flag. We look for a recovery in this critical segment with 2Q earnings."
The other big report on Tuesday is
. The database software giant is slated to report its fiscal second-quarter results with Wall Street expecting earnings of 57 cents a share in the November-ended period on revenue of $9.23 billion. The stock closed Monday at $28.62.
Oracle shares are down nearly 7% year-to-date but they've seen a 15%-plus bounce since hitting a 52-week low of $24.72 on Aug. 18. Of the 44 analysts covering Oracle, 37 have strong buy (15) or buy (22) ratings on the stock vs. 7 holds The median 12-month price target is $36.
Evercore is an Oracle bull with an overweight rating and a price target of $38. The firm sees Larry Ellison & Co. delivering above-consensus revenue of $9.36 billion but has earnings per share at 56 cents, a penny below the average view.
We expect the company to deliver another solid quarter driven by strong demand and uptake of the Exalogic and Exadata engineered systems, and another solid middleware quarter as customers begin to plan for the upgrade to Fusion Apps," the firm said.
The stock could get a lift, Evercore believes, if Oracle shows revenue from hardware is improving but the firm thinks the company's guidance for the third quarter will likely be conservative.
"While we expect Oracle to guide license revenue for 3Q in the range of +3-13% (we are at +5%), we believe there is likely some room for potential upside as long as the macro environment does not meaningfully deteriorate," Evercore said. "By no means does past performance dictate future results, however it is interesting to note that Oracle has outperformed the mid-point of its initial 3Q license guide by an average of 6.5% over the last five years."
Evercore's bull case for Oracle is based on its solid product portfolio and a "very attractive" valuation, and the firm noted the company still seems to be aggressively recruiting sales people, which is a good sign.
"Oracle remains our favorite mega-cap growth idea as the company has shown that it can deliver strong EPS growth in both good and bad markets, and its product portfolio has never been stronger," the firm said. "We see the risk/reward at 12.6x CY12 EPS as very attractive given the company's strong base of recurring revenue, history of execution, and organic growth drivers."
Tuesday's other notable earnings reports include
Tuesday is a light day for economic data with housing starts and building permits for November both due at 8:30 a.m. ET. The consensus estimates, according to
, are 627,000 and 633,000 respectively. There's also the weekly Redbook chain-store sales number at 9 a.m. ET, which Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at
High Frequency Economics
, expects to continue to track at a 2.9% year-over-year increase.
And finally, Dow component
on its plan to acquire
after Monday's closing bell, biting the bullet on a pre-tax charge of $4 billion related to break-up costs it will have to pay to T-Mobile parent
The companies did nail down a "mutually beneficial" roaming agreement apparently but the speculation about what AT&T will need to do to improve its spectrum situation is going to ramp up this week in the wake of this deal being scuttled. The stock slumped in late trades but it could see a bounce when traders reconvene as making this decision does remove an over-hang for AT&T, letting it move on to its next round of options.
Written by Michael Baron in New York.
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