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Stocks will likely see lifeless and directionless trading action in today’s market given the absence of any major economic and corporate news. Some of the recent economic data has been mixed, but the focus next week be squarely on the labor market, with the February non-farm payroll report coming out next Friday. I would expect an overall air of tentativeness in the market ahead of that major release next week.
Sentiment on Europe has been steadily improving in recent days, particularly following the European Central Bank’s (ECB) first round of liquidity operation in December 2011, referred to as Long-term Refinancing Operation or LTRO. The ECB this week followed up that move with another LTRO round of a modestly bigger size than the first one. The second Greek bailout appears to be progressing fine, though the two-day European Union summit that ended today deferred its final approval of the deal to next week.
What this EU summit did accomplish, however, was to authenticate the December 2011 agreement among 25 of its 27 members (excluding the U.K. and the Czech Republic) that aims to provide for a fiscal framework to complement the existing monetary union. This agreement essentially requires the signatories to enshrine specific measures of fiscal discipline into their respective constitutions.
As such, in the next stage, the agreement will need to get approved the voters or parliaments in all 25 countries. Ireland has already announced to hold a referendum on it. Failure to approve the deal by any country will not doom the entire compact, but will leave that country out of the union’s fiscal rescue framework.
Many in the market think that the deal did not go far enough, as it neither provided for the issuance of Euro-bonds nor for asystem to address the region’s ongoing lack of growth. While those objections have weight, the agreement is nevertheless a sign of progress for the common currency union as it reflects the common desire to keep the union together. This by itself is a confidence inducing development.
In corporate news, we got better-than-expected results from Big Lots ( BIG - Analyst Report ) , but its earnings guidance for the current quarter is a shade weaker. The discount retailer is guiding towards first quarter EPS in the 75 cents 81 cents range, which compares to the current Zacks Consensus for the quarter of 81 cents.
In other news, Shutterfly ( SFLY - Analyst Report ) is reportedly in the process of acquiring bankrupt Eastman Kodak’s online photo services business for close to $24 million. The online local business review site, Yelp is expected to start trading on the New York Stock Exchange today under the ticker YELP after it successfully priced its IPO at $15 a share on Thursday, above the expected range of $12 to $14. This gives the company market capitalization of about $900 million.
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