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Ahead of Wall Street - March 20, 2012

Sheraz Mian

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Today’s trading action will likely mimic Monday’s performance when Apple’s (AAPL) dividend announcement kept the positive momentum in place on an otherwise slow-news day. This morning’s favorable Housing Starts numbers for February do not have the same punch as the news about the iPhone maker, but it should nevertheless sustain the narrative of housing ‘green shoots’.

Warm weather likely did lend a helping hand to builders in February, but the emerging favorable housing story is not without basis either. After all, housing data has been showing steady improvement for a while now. Housing Starts and Permits bottomed in the Spring of 2009, while residential investment as a share of the GDP reached its lowest level about a year back and has been rising in the last few quarters. Monday’s Housing Market Index, which tracks homebuilder sentiment and serves as a leading indicator for Housing Starts and Permits, reached its highest level since the summer of 2007 when Starts were almost double the current level. The improvement in builder sentiment over the last 5 to 6 months is largely a function of favorable developments in the labor market and not just sunnier weather. 

In corporate news, upscale jeweler Tiffany & Company (TIF) came out with inline earnings and revenue numbers this morning, but guided higher for 2012. After the close on Monday, Adobe Systems (ADBE) posted in-line results, while Focus Media (FMCN), the Chinese display-advertizing company, came out ahead of expectations. In other news, Amazon (AMZN) is acquiring the robots maker Kiva Systems for $775 million in cash. The company plans to make greater use of robots in its network of warehouses. Oracle (ORCL) will report results after the close today.

Sheraz Mian
Director of Research

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