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Stocks to Open at Record Highs on Heels of Taper Decision; Weekly Jobless Claims; JPM Deal?

Dan Berman
Hot Stock Minute
Stocks to Open at Record Highs on Heels of Taper Decision; Weekly Jobless Claims; JPM Deal?

Cut? What cut? Despite all the talk of a taper, the Fed has decided to leave its asset purchase program entirely in place. The announcement is moving futures higher this morning, following record closes on the Dow and S&P yesterday. Meanwhile, markets to our east have been hitting five-year highs today.

All this comes after Ben Bernanke announced QE3 will remain totally intact. Bernanke says, "With unemployment still elevated and inflation projected to run below the Committee’s longer-run objective, the Committee is continuing its highly accommodative policies. The Committee recognizes that inflation persistently below its objective could pose risks to economic September performance, and we will continue to monitor inflation developments closely."

So, what exactly happened, when a taper of some sort seemed almost certain? Watch Lauren Lyster and Yahoo Finance Senior Columnist Mike Santoli discuss the matter in the video above.

Breaking news: Weekly jobless claims released right as we started streaming live to you at 8:30. The Labor Department says there were 309,000 new jobless claims last week. Estimates were for around 330,000 claims. The prior week's number had been the lowest in seven years, but that's because a computer glitch left thousands of claims uncounted.

Now a brief look at some other headlines this morning: JPMorgan (JPM) will reportedly pay $900-milion in fines for the London Whale trading scandal, which is more than prior estimates. The official announcement could come today; BlackBerry (BBRY) is preparing to lay off up to 40% of its staff before year's end: Google (GOOG) is considering a plan to stop using cookies in favor of system that would track users instead; Grand Theft Auto has set a record for the franchise, racking up more than $800-million in sales when the game debuted Tuesday.


Priceline (PCLN) has crossed a big line. The stock briefly topped $1,000 a share yesterday in the 3pm hour, after the Fed announced there'd be no taper. Priceline stock is up 56-percent year-to-date.

Food giant ConAgra (CAG) has just come out with an earnings miss. The company posted adjusted profits of 37-cents a share, 2-cents below estimates. Revenue was also about $90-million below expectations. The company is citing soft sales, plus changes in merchandising. There is also what it calls a significant investment in new products being attributed to the disappointment. ConAgra is up 7% this year. That's in spite of an 8% drop over the past month.

Also reporting this morning is Rite Aid (RAD) which came in with a healthy beat. The drug store chain swung to a profit of 3-cents. Expectations were for a loss of 4-cents. Rite Aid also beat on revenue which hit $6.3-billion. Even ahead of this report, the stock was up 165%year-to-date and trading at its highest level in 5 1/2 years.

Microsoft (MSFT) is holding an analyst meeting today. There will be plenty to discuss at the event: the company's share buyback program announced two days ago, the effort to replace CEO Steve Ballmer, and the recent purchase of Nokia's handset unit. Microsoft shares are up 21-percent year-to-date.