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Fed Minutes, More Q4 Earnings Expected; Plus CVS, SO

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

We remain lacking on normal economic data ahead of today’s opening bell, not only because Q4 earnings season’s deluge has dwindled but because the overhangs of the 5-week government shutdown has continued delays in data, such as the January Housing Starts and Building Permits that had been scheduled for release this morning. By the end of this week, we should also be short additional economic information such as Durable Goods orders, which had been due this Thursday morning.

One piece of information we look forward to this afternoon is the release of minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) minutes from its last meeting. Recall the FOMC took a pass on raising additionally to 2.5-2.75% on the Fed funds rate, following a tumultuous raise in December to 2.25-2.5% which helped send the stock market into a December tailspin. Members of the FOMC look to have gotten some religion on this since, with Fed Chair Jerome Powell having mentioned he was not interested in unlocking further “unnecessary market turmoil.”

Odds are there will be no possible quarter-point raise until June of this year at the earliest. But with this a given in our current outlook, what today’s minutes may expose is where the fault lines among FOMC members lie. Which voting participants are seeing faster growth and higher inflation that is likely to lead to the next Fed hike? Are there any members more partial to the idea that the FOMC may have to cut rates by the end of 2019, and may even require tapering the Fed’s balance sheet? Analysts will be looking for clues today.

After today’s closing bell, we will get new quarterly earnings reports for restaurants like Jack in the Box (JACK - Free Report) and Cheesecake Factory (CAKE - Free Report) , as well as rental car giant Avis Budget (CAR - Free Report) and prepaid debit card servicer Green Dot (GDOT - Free Report) . A half-hour before today’s open, we also see results from these companies:

CVS Health (CVS - Free Report) has once again topped earnings estimates in its Q4 report, posting $2.14 per share compared with the $2.07 expected and $1.92 per share in the year-ago quarter. Revenues reached $54.42 billion, up 1.34% from the Zacks consensus and $48.39 billion a year ago. The company has not missed on its bottom-line projections since its Q2 2015 report, 4 1/2 years ago. For more on CVS’ earnings, click here.

Southern Companies (SO - Free Report) , a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy)-rated energy company based in Atlanta, GA, also surpassed estimates, putting up 25 cents per share which beat by a penny from estimates, on $5.3 billion in revenues that outpaced the $4.9 billion our analysts were looking for. Shares are up modestly in today’s pre-market, and +12% year to date. For more on SO’s earnings, click here.

Mark Vickery
Senior Editor

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