Stocks are trading mixed in uninspired action as players await word from Federal Reserve officials. In midday action, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU) has lost 16 points. Strong earnings from the software sector have lifted the NASDAQ ($COMPQ) for modest gains.
The market is stuck in wait-and-see mode ahead of the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee [FOMC] post-meeting statement. Fed officials are not expected to announce any changes in rate policy. However, with recent worries about housing stemming from depreciating real estate values and the subprime mortgage debacle, Fed Fund futures have begun pricing in the possibility of a rate cut later this year. So, attention will turn to the post-meeting statement to see if the FOMC is indeed beginning to lean on the side of easing.
Stocks are likely to remain rangebound ahead of the news and then move based on the tone of the post-meeting statement. No other economic data is slated for today. Bonds offered as pit players brace for the release. The benchmark ten-year Treasury note is off 5 ticks and its yield, which moves opposite to price, sits near 4.57%.
Meanwhile, Oracle (ORCL) is helping the tech sector after the software giant reported third quarter profits of 25 cents a share, which beat analyst estimates by 3 pennies. ORCL recently traded up 45 cents to $18.00 a share. Adobe (ADBE) is up on earnings as well. Shares tacked on $1.78 to $42.52 after the software maker posted quarterly revenues of $740 million, which easily topped analyst estimates of $717 million.
SanDisk (SNDK) is up $1.46 to $43.37 after announcing a patent agreement with Samsung. Palm (PALM) is heading higher for a second day on takeover talk. Today, Motorola (MOT) is being mentioned as a possible suitor. FedEx (FDX) fell, however, after the company reported a decline in third quarter profits. FDX is down $2.30 to $109.99 a share.
Crude oil prices are up even after the Energy Information Association [EIA] said weekly inventory stockpiles rose by 3.924 million in the week of March 6, compared to estimates of 1 million barrels. However, supply concerns linger after the report showed gasoline and distillate fuels suffering larger than expected drawdowns. Crude recently traded up 27 cents to $59.51 a barrel.
The market's main focus is on the Fed, however. The nagging question relates to the problems in housing and whether there is a risk of spillover into the broader economy. Will the Fed acknowledge these risks? Or, are officials willing to let the woes in the sector continue in order to maintain a vigilant stance against inflation? Will they or won't they? Seems that the chances of meaningful changes in verbiage are slim. Look for more of the same, with acknowledgement of inflation risks and something about "moderating." No big surprises, but perhaps some disappointment if rate cut hopes are dashed.
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