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Thank Bernanke! Stocks Poised for Record High; Jobless Claims Make Surprise Rise

Dan Berman
Hot Stock Minute
Thank Bernanke! Stocks Poised for Record High; Jobless Claims Make Surprise Rise

Markets are poised for a move into record territory. And you can thank Ben Bernanke. Futures have climbed on remarks the Fed chair made after yesterday's closing bell. He said there's no end yet to quantitative easing. Here's the critical part of his comments: "Both sides of our mandate, both the employment side and the inflation side are saying that we need to be more accommodative." Bernanke added, "So we are going to continue to watch and see whether growth is resilient going forward for the rest of the year."

Now breaking news: weekly jobless claims have hit their highest mark in two months. The Labor Department says there were 360,00o new claims last week, up 16,000 and higher than expectations which were for about 340,000.

Oil is slipping this morning, down from a 15-month high. Crude prices soared past $106 a barrel yesterday, their highest point since March of last year. The spike was sparked by data showing a bigger-than-expected drop in supplies of U.S. crude last week. But now the International Energy Agency says oil supplies from non-OPEC countries will increase in 2014.

More top talent is bolting from BlackBerry (BBRY). The Wall Street Journal reports two more executives left the company in recent weeks. The departures come amid disappointing sales of the company's latest smartphones. BlackBerry is not commenting, but the Journal says the company tried to convince both men to stay. On Tuesday, CEO Thorsten Heins pleaded for patience at the company's annual meeting, saying he needed more time to engineer a turnaround.


Costco (COST) is up 1.5% in early trading after reporting same-store sales for June. Costco says figures rose 6% for the month, beating estimates of 5.4% which also would have been impressive. This number is part of a larger climb. Last month same-store sales were up 5%. A year ago they were a more modest 3% Good weather, lower gas prices, and an improving housing market are all cited as reasons for gains. Shares of Costco are up 12% year-to-date.

Apollo Group (APOL) has been up more than 7% in early trading. Apollo says its University of Phoenix has gotten its accreditation extended through 2023. The company has also avoided being put on probation by the Higher Learning Commission. However, it will remain under watch for its administrative structure and governance. Prior to the moves we're seeing this morning , Apollo is down 15% year-to-date. The past 52-weeks have been even more bruising with the stock down 45%.

Yum! Brands (YUM) is up fractionally after reporting quarterly results after yesterday's closing bell. The company says it made 56-cents a share excluding special items when expectations were for 54-cents. That was still down from 67-cents a year ago, and the company missed estimated for revenue by $30 million. The trouble of course comes from Yum's KFC stores in China where same store sales fell 20% from last year because of bird flu and food safety concerns. Despite the drop in business, Yum shares remain up 8% this year.

Peregrine Pharmaceuticals (PPHM) reports after the closing bell. The stock rose 5% yesterday. Peregrine is expected to post a loss of 6-cents a share. That would be an improvement from losses of 10-cents a share a year ago. Revenue it likely to be up more than 50%, but to only $3.5 million. Peregrine concentrates on antibody-based treatments for cancer, hepatitis-C and other viral infections. It currently has a market cap of about $200 million. Shares are up 96% over the past year. But the stock dropped 10% in the past month because company has abandoned tests of a cancer treatment.