NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The doves are firmly in control at the Federal Reserve, which is nice to know but not exactly anything to rally over. Wednesday was an upbeat but low volume session, benefiting from a bit of a lull in hard news from Europe. No one was really expecting Bernanke & Co. to pop the cork on QE3 just yet, so signaling support is here if necessary is kind of ho-hum. The Fed chief is in a bit of a box these days, and the FOMC statement seemed to reflect this. The slight improvement in the economic data has calmed double-dip recession fears and taken away the urgency for more stimulus. At the same time, the central bank hasn't been able to combat elevated unemployment levels, so Bernanke feels ineffectual on that front and wants to do more. Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, thought Bernanke lived up to "his presumed role as uber-dove" in Wednesday's press conference and found it interesting that he was vague about what economic conditions will actually merit moving forward with more stimulus. "His reticence, in our view, is probably because the biggest barriers to QE3 are the degree of internal Fed dissent and political opposition," he wrote. "The idea of QE3 is alive, but it would probably require the data to deteriorate, and right now they are improving." Much was made of the lack of dissents on the open market committee this time around, except for Chicago Fed president Charles Evans who wanted more accommodation, but it should be noted that not opposing the current statement isn't necessarily the same as being on board with more asset buys anytime soon. Meantime, the shock of Greece Prime Minister George Papandreou's decision to pursue a popular vote on accepting the European Union's bailout plan is wearing off but aside from a reported grilling that Papandreou received from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy ahead of the G-20 meeting, nothing's really changed. The headlines should pick up on Thursday with the European Central Bank making its own monetary policy announcement. This will be first one with Mario Draghi serving as president, and the extent of the ECB's bond-buying activities will be hot topic.
Back in the U.S., Standard & Poor's investment committee voted to lift its 12-month target for the S&P 500 to 1360 from 1260 late Wednesday but didn't recommend boosting exposure to U.S. stocks just yet because of the lingering problems in Europe. "In addition to mounting feasibility doubts surrounding the European sovereign debt rescue package, the proposal for a January popular referendum threatens to derail all progress to date as a 'no' vote could end foreign aid for Greece and possibly even lead to the country's exit from the Eurozone," wrote Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist at S&P. "We believe the situation remains unsettling and ephemeral, and has reignited global risk aversion, as logic dictates passage, while populist passion points to rejection." S&P's recommended "moderate" allocations is 45% U.S. stocks, 15% foreign stocks, 25% bonds and 15% cash. It's another big earnings day on Thursday with Kellogg ( K), Starbucks ( SBUX) and LinkedIn ( LNKD) among the brand names opening their books. This will be business social networker LinkedIn's second public report, and the pressure is on as the stock has nearly doubled from its IPO pricing at $45 to close Wednesday at $84.50. The average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters is for a loss of 4 cents a share in the September-ended period on revenue of $127.6 million. Last time around, LinkedIn reported a surprise profit, but while Jefferies is ahead of consensus, expecting revenue of $133.4 million, it still sees a loss of 2 cents a share. The firm previewed LinkedIn's report on Monday, when the stock was a bit higher, and kept a hold rating, despite expectations of a good performance. "LinkedIn's strong growth momentum and conservative guidance are likely to yield another 'beat and raise' quarter, causing consensus ests to be revised upward again," Jefferies wrote. "While this is usually the right mix to keep the stock working, we believe that the valuation at ~$94/share reflects much of this upside already." By that view, this week's sell-off may have brought back some upside, assuming the results are up to snuff. It's early in LinkedIn's public life but the company seems to already have a bit of a reputation for sandbagging Wall Street with its guidance. That could come back to bite them badly if growth slows and they can't deliver the overperformance that they've implicitly underpromised.
Of the nine analysts covering the shares, five are at hold (4) or underperform (1), and with a forward price-to-earnings ratio in excess of 280X based on the fiscal 2012 consensus view for a profit of 30 cents a share, there's a lot of downside from here. Other notable quarterly reports slated to cross the wires Thursday morning are Abercrombie & Fitch ( ANF), Apache Corp. ( APA), CVS Caremark ( CVS), Duke Energy ( DUK), Eastman Kodak ( EK), Elizabeth Arden ( RDEN), Estee Lauder ( EL), Fortress Investment ( FIG), K-Swiss ( KSWS), Orbitz Worldwide ( OWW), PG&E Corp. ( PCG), Sara Lee ( SLE), The St. Joe Co. ( JOE), Unilever plc ( UL), and World Wrestling Federation ( WWE). The late roster includes American International Group ( AIG), CBS Corp. ( CBS), Chesapeake Energy ( CHK), Chiquita Brands International ( CQB), Directv ( DTV), First Solar ( FSLR), Red Robin Gourmet Burgers ( RRGB), Skullcandy ( SKUL), Sunoco ( SUN), and Vornado Realty Trust ( VNO). Thursday's data continues the buildup to Friday's October employment report with weekly initial and continuing jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. ET. The consensus is for initial claims for the week ended Oct. 29 at 401,000, and continuing claims for the week ended Oct. 22 at 3.7 million. In other words, more of the same. The market also gets preliminary reads on business productivity and unit labor costs for the third quarter, also at 8:30 a.m. ET, as well as factory orders for September and the Institute for Supply Management's services index for October, both at 10 a.m. ET. -- Written by Michael Baron in New York. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Michael Baron. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org