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Tokyo’s Nikkei Tanks; Jobless Claims Fall; Major Merger in Store?

Stocks are poised to open significantly lower after a tanking in Tokyo. The Nikkei plunged 7.3% today. That's the biggest drop for the index since the country's earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. And it happened on record volume. But what exactly sparked the massive sell-off? Yahoo! Finance Senior Columnist Mike Santoli explains in the video above.

Weekly jobless claims have dropped again. The Labor Department says there were 340,000 new claims filed last week. That's a drop of 360, 000 in the prior week which had actually been a jump from a 5-year low.

There's speculation this morning that two snooty rivals could soon be rubbing noses. We're talking Saks (SKS) and Neiman Marcus. Saks closed-up more than 13% yesterday on a report in the New York Post that it was exploring the possibility of going private. Now comes word that private equity firm KKR is considering an investment in Saks. Then there could conceivably be a merger with Neiman's. That chain is currently owned by private equity firms TPG and Warburg Pincus, but has also been exploring a sale.

Ford (F) wants to high-tail it out of Australia. The automaker says it will stop making cars down under in 2016. Ford is citing high business costs, though sluggish sales in the country certainly haven't helped. Just yesterday Ford announced it's upping production at plants here in the US. Ford stock is up 44% over the past year and hit a new 52-week high yesterday.

STOCKS TO WATCH

First up is Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) which has risen more than 12-percent in early trading. The company released its quarterly report after yesterday's closing bell, posting earnings of 87-cents when you exclude items. That's down from a year ago, but beats estimates by 6-cents. Revenue missed by $1/2 billion. Basically, the company beat by cutting costs. But CEO Meg Whitman also upped the yearly outlook citing strength in enterprise services and printing. Even prior to this morning's gains HP is up 41% since the start of the year making it the top performer in the Dow.

Next up, Dollar Tree (DLTR) which is currently up 3%. The company came out with its quarterly earnings this morning. It beat on earnings posting 59-cents a share compared with estimates of 57-cents. Revenues matched the consensus. Sales were up more than 8% from last year and hit a new record for the company. Gross margins also moved higher. Shares of Dollar Tree are up 21% so far this year slightly outperforming the market. But look at a 1-year chart and things are pretty different with the stock price down 3%.

Gap (GPS) stores will report after the closing bell. The chain is expected to post earnings of 69-cents a share up from 47-cents a year ago on revenue that's climbed to almost $3.7 billion. The Gap has been enjoying strong same-store sales, up 7% in the last quarter over the prior year. As for the stock, it has been outperforming rivals like Abercrombie (ANF) and Aeropostale (ARO). Gap shares are up 31% year-to-date. On Tuesday they hit a new 13-year high.

Finally, there's Pandora (P) which also reports this afternoon. Analysts are expecting losses of 10-cents a share, slightly wider than last year but on revenues that have risen more than 50%. Just yesterday Pandora radio launched an update that allows listeners to link their selections to Facebook's new music section. Pandora listeners will be able to personalize what they share. Pandora's shares are up 20% over just the past month, and up 60% in the last year.

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