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Ahead of Wall Street

November 9, 2012

(Note: This is Mark Vickery, substituting for Sheraz Mian while he is away.)

After a long week of big news affecting the U.S. markets -- from the results of the General Election to Hurricane Sandy and the follow-up Nor-easter to a 3.3+% sell-off in the Dow over the past 2 trading days -- Friday's markets come in on a relatively quiet background. Futures are still down ahead of the market open, which looks as if it may cap a disappointing weak of trading.

Because we will have no changing of the guard in the White House, instead of considering where strengths in industries may be expected to change going forward, focus has been on the major issues that remain. Namely, the Fiscal Cliff. The importance of ramifications of going over said cliff has been greatly heightened. Not until Congress convenes will we know to what extent Washington plans to do to fix it. Until there is some ground gained in obtaining a bipartisan solution, expect the markets to be doubtful about getting there.

This morning, U.S. import prices rose one-half of 1% in October, more than expected and exports were unchanged for the month. But oil import prices were down, minus which import prices were up just 0.3%. This indicates only modest inflation weighing on the economy at present.

The Department of Agriculture has released a report indicating better-than-expected crops in corn, soybeans and wheat, better than expectations of a fifth straight month of a cut in production. This indicates that commodity prices are expected to come down somewhat, another relative relief from inflation concerns.

OK, but still: we're currently undergoing the worst trading week in the markets since June. But a major sell-off due to fears about the Fiscal Cliff (and bets on Mitt Romney winning the presidency) may indicate a good entry point for investors with their eyes on good stocks they've considered a bit too expensive. But where to buy-in? After all, nobody rings a bell at the bottom.

Finally, in the back-stretch of earnings season, JCPenney (JCP - Analyst Report) shares are down over 9% this morning after a horrid EPS miss and a 26% plummet in same-store sales. Ahead of holiday season, JCPenney looks to be in very, very rough shape, helping illustrate some of the profound disappointment this earnings season overall. We see healthcare products maker Covidien (COV - Analyst Report) beating expectations in its fiscal 4th quarter, even though year-over-year revenues were down.

Mark Vickery
Senior Editor

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