Updated from 8:32 a.m. EDT(At 4:03 p.m. EDT)
Enough With The Tea PartiesBefore I get to the late headlines and what to look forward to on Thursday, I have to get on my soapbox and rant about the quaint little "tea parties" around the country today. I couldn't have cared less about these anti-tax protests today, but I was completely blown away by a CNN clip I saw in the last few minutes. In it, a reporter approached a Chicago man who was holding a poster of Adolf Hitler with President Obama's face pasted on and asked him why he felt Obama was a fascist. "Because, he is. He's a fascist," was the man's reply, before he added this witty one-line gem: "The real pirates are in the White House and the Senate and in the Congress." How clever. Listen, regardless of your political affiliation, nearly everyone would have to admit this anti-stimulus, anti-Obama rhetoric has all gotten ridiculous since Rick Santelli's overplayed speech from a few weeks ago. It's one thing to say you don't want to pay for your neighbor's house, it's another to equate President Obama to the pirates taking hostages off the coast of Somalia, or worse -- Hitler. None of this is constructive and it needs to stop before it gets completely out of hand. Personally, I'm still trying to figure out how Obama has turned from a socialist to a fascist (I'm joking with that last part, of course).
Late News RoundupThere is very little in terms of earnings news after the closing bell Wednesday, and traders are already likely looking ahead to Thursday morning. Several key reports will come before the opening bell tomorrow, with JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) considered the most significant. After good news recently from Wells Fargo ( WFC) and Goldman Sachs ( GS), the burden is on JPMorgan and Jamie Dimon to keep the good news for the financial sector flowing. Also before Thursday's open, earnings reports are expected from Nokia ( NOK), Harley-Davidson ( HOG), Southwest Air ( LUV), and Gannett ( GCI), among many others. Google ( GOOG) will be the headliner after Thursday's close, with some expecting the Internet giant to notch better-than-expected earnings. Traders will also have to contend with a handful of economic reports tomorrow before the opening bell. The March read on housing starts and building permits is expected at 8:30 a.m. EDT, with economists expecting housing starts to fall to 540,000 units from 583,000 in February. On the positive side, building permits are expected to rise slightly. Also due at 8:30 a.m. EDT is the weekly jobless claims data, with many economists expecting the claims number to rise from 654,000 from last week. Later, at 10 a.m. EDT, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve will post its manufacturing index. One of the major pieces of news after Wednesday's close was word from Xilinx ( XLNX) that it would restructure, eliminating up to 200 jobs, or 6% of its workforce. Xilinx said the restructuring would result in a pre-tax charge of $11 million to $13 million in the June quarter. Additionally, Xilinx said it is implementing other short-term cost savings including executive salary reductions and a broad-based employee salary freeze. As a result, Xilinx expects to generate cost and operating expense savings of approximately $4 million to $5 million a quarter beginning in the June quarter. Restructuring charges will not impact the recently ended March quarter.
China Not Manipulating Currency: TreasuryIn a semi-annual report to Congress on international economic and exchange rate policies, the U.S. Treasury said that the Chinese renminbi is "undervalued" but it did not officially rule against China. "The Chinese currency appreciated by 16.6% in real effective terms between the end of June 2008 and the end of February 2009," Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in the report. "As the crisis intensified, the currency appreciated slightly against the dollar when most other emerging market and other currencies fell sharply against the dollar." (At 7:53 a.m. EDT)
Happy Tax DayI'm hoping you all have your taxes prepared (or that you at least have an appointment with H&R Block ( HRB) at some point today). If not, and you feel the need to revolt, there are anti-tax rallies set to take place in Washington, D.C. and around the U.S. as part of the national Tax Day Tea Party, recalling the Boston Tea Party back in 1773. Organizers said they are protesting massive government spending and a bailout of the financial sector by the Obama administration and Congress. Speaking of the Obama administration, The New York Times reported Wednesday that the government is working on plans of how to disclose results of the stress tests for 19 of the biggest U.S. banks. The administration has reportedly decided to reveal some sensitive details of the stress tests after concluding that keeping many of the findings secret could send investors fleeing from financial institutions rumored to be weakest. It appears that isn't the only news about more government clarity. The Wall Street Journal reported late Tuesday that the Federal Reserve is mulling the idea of having regular press conferences to discuss monetary policy.
Earnings RoundupChipmaker and Dow component Intel ( INTC) reported earnings after Tuesday's close, exceeding both the first-quarter earnings and revenue targets of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. However, gross margin, a key metric for Intel, was 45.6% in the first quarter, down from 53.8% in the year-ago quarter and 53.1% sequentially. Intel also said that gross margin percentage in the second quarter will be in the mid-40s, and that it would not provide a revenue outlook for the second quarter.
Intel shares were down 4.3% in the premarket session. CSX Corp. ( CSX) was also out with earnings after the closing bell Tuesday. The railway operator recorded a first-quarter profit of 62 cents a share, compared with the Thomson Reuters average estimate of 51 cents a share. Revenue was down 17% from a year ago to $2.2 billion, coming in slightly below the consensus estimate of $2.26 billion. CSX shares were up nearly 7% in the premarket session. Before Wednesday's opening, both Abbott Labs ( ABT) and Infosys ( INFY) beat earnings forecasts with their latest reports, but both also fell short of revenue targets. And while Abbott Labs offered second-quarter guidance that was in-line with expectations, Infosys delivered downside guidance for its fiscal first quarter. Abbott was losing 3.6% in the premarket session, and Infosys was down 6.1%.
Economic Data RushThe economic calendar will also be in the spotlight Wednesday, with a flurry of reports expected to hit before the start of trading. At 8:30 a.m. EDT, the Labor Department will post the March read on its consumer price index, which is expected to show an increase of 0.1%. The core CPI number, which excludes food and energy, should rise 0.1%. Inflation has been a hot topic lately amid worries that an economic rebound will lead to inflation, courtesy of all the liquidity the Federal Reserve has pumped into the system. While Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said Tuesday that the central bank would carefully monitor the situation, investors' fears will be put at ease if tomorrow's CPI report shows that inflation is indeed under control.
Among the other economic reports to be posted Wednesday, the New York Fed will release its Empire Manufacturing index for April at 8:30 a.m. EDT, followed by the Fed's report on industrial production and capacity utilization for March at 9:15 a.m. EDT. Later in the day, the Fed will post its beige book survey, which shows economic activity across its 12 districts. In addition, weekly crude inventory numbers will be posted at 10:30 a.m. EDT.