Updated from 5:12 p.m. ET to include latest share price for Xyratex and news on Intermune. NEW YORK ( TheStreet) --The final calendar quarter of 2012 has begun and there's some worries setting in that stocks may not have much more oomph left to move higher. Venerable market watcher Ed Yardeni opined earlier Tuesday that the S&P 500 may not be able to get much more mileage out of the Federal Reserve's pledge of unending easing. "Whether he
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is right or wrong about the stock market as a transmission mechanism between QE and the economy, no one can deny that the 'Bernanke Put' has contributed greatly to the bull market," he said in emailed commentary. "The question is whether the law of diminishing returns might be setting in already. A case can be made that the S&P 500 peaked for the year at 1465 on September 14, the day after the FOMC voted to implement QE3." While Yardeni gives Bernanke credit for stock prices doing so well, he's much less enthused with the impact the central bank's efforts have had on the economy, calling the recovery since the financial crisis "woefully unimpressive." And he doesn't think the central bank has anything left in the toolbox to make investors feel better about the fiscal cliff. "There certainly isn't much more the Fed can do over the rest of the year even though investors are likely to get increasingly jittery about the coming fiscal cliff," he said. "Recent data on factory orders and personal income and consumption suggest that concerns about the cliff are already depressing business and consumer spending." Meantime, Wells Fargo chief macro strategist Gary Thayer highlighted Wednesday night's presidential debate as a potential market mover later this week. "Investors will be watching the upcoming presidential debates to determine which political party is more likely to control Congress and enact policies to avoid the fiscal cliff," he added. "If one party appears to be doing better than the other the uncertainty over the fiscal cliff could diminish. The biggest risk would be if there is a political stalemate preventing Congress from taking action. When election uncertainty diminishes, investors are likely to look beyond the election and focus on prospects for economic growth in 2013." The debate will surely color trading on Thursday, especially if Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney can win the day. The latest Wall Street Journal/ NBC News poll showed the incumbent President Barack Obama is still ahead, 49% to 46%, but that's narrower than the advantage of five percentage points that Obama enjoyed coming out of the party conventions last month.
As for Wednesday's scheduled news, Family Dollar Stores ( FDO) is slated to report its fiscal fourth-quarter results before the opening bell, and the average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters is for a profit of 75 cents a share in the August-ended period on revenue of $2.36 billion. Shares of the Matthews, N.C.-based off-price retailer are up more than 13% so far in 2012, but the stock has pulled back more than 10% since hitting a 52-week high of $74.73 on June 14. The sell side is split on the company ahead of the report with 13 of the 27 analysts covering Family Dollar at either strong buy (5) or buy (8) and the remainder split between hold (12) and underperform (2). The median 12-month price target sits at $72, implying potential upside of 12% from Tuesday's closing price of $66. Goldman Sachs thinks Family Dollar will likely meet Wall Street's expectations for the quarter but said it would wait for the stock to become a bit cheaper before snapping up shares. "We expect a roughly in-line report coupled with conservative FY13 guidance as implementation of sales initiatives may have limited 4Q flow-through," the firm said in a preview of the report this week. "With the long-term opportunity intact, we would be buyers on weakness." Check out TheStreet's quote page for Family Dollar for year-to-date share performance, analyst ratings, earnings estimates and much more. Also due to report their quarterly numbers on Wednesday are Monsanto ( MON), Suntech Power Holdings ( STP), and Marriott International ( MAR). The economic calendar features the Mortgage Bankers Association's weekly application activity index at 7 a.m. ET; the employment change report for September from Automatic Data Processing at 8:15 a.m. ET; the Institute of Supply Management services index for September at 10 a.m. ET; weekly crude inventories at 10:30 a.m. ET. And finally, Xyratex Ltd. fell well short of Wall Street's expectations with its fiscal third-quarter results after Wednesday's closing bell with the company citing weaker than expected enterprise storage demand. The U.K. based company reported non-GAAP earnings of $10.7 million, or 37 cents a share, for the three months ended in August on revenue of $275.7 million, missing the average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters for a profit of 44 cents a share in the quarter on revenue of $316.3 million. For its fourth quarter ending in November, Xyratex forecast an adjusted loss of 15 to 43 cents a share on revenue ranging from $235 million to $285 million. The stock was the big loser in late trades, last quoted at $7.50, down nearly 14%, on extended volume of roughly 250,000. Intermune ( ITMN) shares were standout gainers though, rising more than 10% to $9.75 on volume of more than 60,000 after the Brisbane, Calif.-based company said it's received Canadian marketing approval for Esbriet, a treatment of mild to moderate idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in adult patients. The company expects the drug to be available in January 2013. -- Written by Michael Baron in New York. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Michael Baron.