Updated from 6:56 p.m. ET with information on after-hours trading. NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- And that's the power of Apple ( AAPL). What may have more to do with whether stocks can build on this rally though is how the market ultimately interprets the mixed message sent by the Federal Reserve on Wednesday afternoon as the central bank's members telegraphed growing hawkishness but good, old Ben Bernanke remained his dovish self during the press conference. From here, it looks to be like many things in life, a matter of timing. As Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, noted, the pressure is building for a change in the central bank's stance on tightening despite Wednesday's decision to stand pat. "The FOMC statement yesterday stuck to the view that rates will remain 'exceptionally low' through end-2014 but the new economic projections show that only 4 of the 17 FOMC members expect no change in rates by that date and the median forecast is 1.0%. How can this be?," Shepherdson wrote. "Mr. Bernanke was quite clear: The FOMC deliberations 'trump' the forecasts, which are no more than 'input' to the decision-making process." This year a number of the known hawks -- Charles Plosser, Richard Fisher, James Bullard, and Narayana Kocherlakota -- don't have votes so the doves are in control for now, and Wall Street seems fine with that. Meantime, Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ, sounded a note of caution late Wednesday, saying the market's generally positive reaction to first-quarter earnings may be running its course. He sees the signs of political instability in Europe as worrisome. "What next?," he wrote. "Investors responded rapidly to their underestimation of Q1 EPS growth, but may soon grow immune to the effects of an above-average beat rate. Upcoming European elections offer a new fixation, in our opinion, that may only cause the markets to a enter period of renewed uncertainty surrounding the fallout of elections that may be tipped by voters influenced by austerity fatigue, as well as political leaders who admittedly miss budget targets." As for Thursday's scheduled news, Amazon.com ( AMZN) reports its first-quarter results after the close, and the average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters is for a profit of 7 cents a share in the March-ended period on revenue of $12.9 billion. In the same period a year earlier, the company earned 44 cents a share on revenue of $9.9 billion.
Margins are always front and center for the leading online retailer each quarter. The company's performance against analyst expectations has been erratic over the past four quarters with two misses set against two beats and the actual per-share number never within 10% of the consensus view. The stock is up nearly 10% so far in 2012 but it hasn't been a market leader during the broad market's rally off the October lows. Based on Wednesday's regular-session close at $194.42, the shares have fallen 21% since hitting a 52-week high of $246.71 on Oct. 17. The sell side is mildly bullish ahead of the report with 23 of the 40 analysts covering Amazon at either strong buy (12) or buy (11), and the median 12-month price target sitting at $220. In late January, Amazon projected operating results for the first quarter between a loss of $200 million and a profit of $100 million with revenue ranging from $12 billion to $13.4 billion. That guidance reflects $200 million in costs for stock-based compensation and amortization of intangible assets. Benchmark Co., which has a buy rating and a $210 price target on the stock, thinks Amazon has a good shot at outperforming, given how far Wall Street's expectations have come down since that outlook was issued. "We believe Amazon could report 31% top-line growth to $12.9 billion, in line with consensus, with potential upside to our estimates given strong domestic e-commerce performance in 1Q along with better-than-expected results from eBay ( EBAY) Marketplaces division," the firm said. "More important, however, is our belief that operating income could still come in near the higher end of the guidance range, which would imply better margins than the street's significantly lowered expectations." Check out TheStreet's quote page for Amazon.com for year-to-date share performance, analyst ratings, earnings estimates and much more. Coinstar ( CSTR) will be another closely-watched report. The company popped the cork on the quarter a bit early, providing an above-consensus outlook on April 12 and lifting its full-year view as well. The stock has surged nearly 40% so far this year, hitting a 62-week high of $69.12 on April 13, as the company has established itself as serious competition for Netflix ( NFLX) with its Redbox DVD rental kiosk business as well as a streaming partnership with Verizon ( VZ)
Wall Street is looking for earnings of $1.34 a share on revenue of $563.5 million from Coinstar in the quarter, which is slightly below the company's own outlook for a core profit of $1.36 to $1.40 a share. Benchmark sees earnings coming in at the high end of that range, citing upside potential from the price increase for standard rentals implemented in October and lower than planned credit card fees. Starbucks ( SBUX) also reports after the close, and the average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters is for a profit of 39 cents a share on revenue of $3.18 billion in the coffee seller's fiscal second quarter. The Seattle-based company has a strong track record of beating the consensus view, topping the average analysts' estimate in the past eight quarters with an average beat of nearly 8%. The stock has been just as perky as its numbers, rising more than 50% in the past year and hitting a 52-week high of $62 earlier this month. Before the bell, Dow component Exxon Mobil ( XOM) opens its books. The oil major announced a big boost to quarterly dividend on Wednesday, and earnings day usually holds few surprises for the company, which is expected to earn $2.09 a share in the first quarter on revenue of $124.76 billion. Other early reporters on Thursday include Aetna ( AET), Alcatel-Lucent ( ALU), Altria Group ( MO), AmerisourceBergen ( ABC), Amylin Pharmaceuticals ( AMLN), AstraZeneca ( AZN), Ball Corp. ( BLL), BorgWarner ( BWA), Briggs & Stratton ( BGG), Bristol-Myers Squibb ( BMY), Brunswick Corp. ( BC), Celgene ( CELG), CME Group ( CME), Coca-Cola Enterprises ( CCE), Colgate-Palmolive ( CL), Deluxe Corp. ( DLX), Dow Chemical ( DOW), Dunkin' Brands ( DNKN), Elan Corp. ( ELN), Goodrich ( GR), Interpublic Group ( IPG), JetBlue Airways ( JBLU), Kansas City Southern ( KSU), Kellogg ( K), Liz Clairborne ( LIZ), Lockheed Martin ( LMT), Monster Worldwide ( MWW), Moody's Corp. ( MCO), Omnicare ( OCR), Patriot Coal ( PCX), PepsiCo ( PEP), Pulte Homes ( PHM), Raytheon ( RTN), Revlon ( REV), Safeway ( SWY), Starwood Hotels ( HOT), Tyco International ( TYC), United Parcel Service ( UPS), Waste Management ( WM), Whirlpool ( WHR), and Zimmer Holdings ( ZMH). The late roster features Angie's List ( ANGI), Applied Micro Circuits ( AMCC), Avid Technology ( AVID), Callaway Golf ( ELY), Columbia Sportswear ( COLM), Deckers Outdoor ( DECK), Expedia ( EXPE), Fusion-io ( FIO), Gilead Sciences ( GILD), HealthSouth ( HLS), Ingram Micro ( IM), KLA-Tencor ( KLAC), Metlife ( MET), Oclaro ( OCLR), VeriSign ( VRSN), Western Digital ( WDC), and Zynga ( ZNGA). Thursday's economic calendar features weekly initial and continuing jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. ET; and pending home sales for March at 10 a.m. ET. The consensus is for initial claims to come in 373,000, a decline after averaging 387,000 per week for the past two weeks. The blame has been put on timing of Easter holiday and the bulls are no doubt hoping a drop this past week will come along and confirm that. And finally, it was a busy after-hours session with names like Akamai Technologies ( AKAM), TriQuint Semiconductor ( TQNT), Crocs ( CROX) moving lower; and Ancestry.com ( ACOM), Cirrus Logic ( CRUS), Equinix ( EQNX), and Citrix Systems ( CRUS) in rally mode. -- Written by Michael Baron in New York. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Michael Baron.