Wednesday's Early Headlines
- ADP Report Shows Unexpected Job Losses in March -- Automatic Data Processing's (ADP) latest employment report showed that the private sector lost 23,000 jobs in March, worse than expectations of an increase of 40,000. Still, it was the fewest number of private sector jobs lost since February 2008. ADP said that the lack of improvement in employment from February to March "is consistent with the pause in the decline of initial unemployment claims that occurred during the winter." The government's own jobs report, due Friday at 8:30 a.m. EDT, is expected, on average, to show an increase of 190,000 jobs in March, although estimates vary widely.
- Mortgage Applications, Rates on the Rise -- The Mortgage Bankers Association said its Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, rose a seasonally adjusted 1.3% last week, as the purchase index increased 6.8% from the previous week. On the other hand, refinancing applications fell 1.3% compared with the prior week, the survey showed. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate inched higher to 5.04% last week from 5.01% the previous week, the MBA said.
- Obama to Allow Drilling Off Virginia Coast -- President Obama is expected Wednesday to announce he will allow drilling off Virginia's coast. Obama's plan is a reversal of a long-standing ban on most offshore drilling, The Associated Press reports. The plan modifies a ban that for more than 20 years has limited drilling along coastal areas other than the Gulf of Mexico. The president also is rejecting some new drilling sites that were planned in Alaska, the AP reports.
- Icahn Cuts Stake in Blockbuster -- Billionaire investor Carl Icahn shed more than 13 million Class A shares of struggling video rental chain Blockbuster (BBI), reducing his ownership to 5.1% as of March 29, according to a Securities and Exchange filing. In January, Icahn was one of the biggest investors in the movie rental chain, holding a 16.9% stake of Class A shares. Icahn also reduced his stake in Class B shares.
Wednesday's Earnings Roundup
- Honeywell (HON) late Tuesday raised its first-quarter earnings guidance to 45 cents to 49 cents a share, up from a previous first-quarter projection of 40 cents to 45 cents a share. Honeywell said it expects full-year earnings to be at the high end of its guidance range of $2.20 to $2.40 a share. Prior to the Honeywell announcement, analysts forecast a first-quarter profit of 44 cents a share and a full-year profit of $2.40 a share, according to Thomson Reuters
- Rite Aid (RAD) posted a fourth-quarter loss of 24 cents a share, narrowing from a year ago but still worse than the Thomson Reuters average estimate for a loss of 19 cents a share. Looking ahead, Rite Aid forecasts full-year revenue of $25.2 billion to $25.6 billion.