Updated March 30 at 2:30pm
economic activity

U.S. stock futures little changed after Dow average tops 15,000


LONDON – U.S. stock futures were little changed, after the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed above 15,000 for the first time yesterday, as investors awaited earnings from News Corp. and Monster Beverage Corp.

Whole Foods Market Inc. gained 8.2 percent after the biggest U.S. natural-goods grocer posted better-than-estimated earnings and raised its full-year profit forecast. Electronic Arts Inc. rallied 8.3 percent as the video-game maker predicted annual profit that exceeded analyst projections. Symantec Corp. lost 6.2 percent after it said quarterly sales and revenue will miss analyst estimates.

S&P 500 futures expiring in June rose less than 0.1 percent to 1,621.3 at 7:26 a.m. in New York. Contracts on the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 11 points, or 0.1 percent, to 14,994 today.

“The earnings season has confirmed that we are in a low growth environment, with companies missing sales estimates and reporting sluggish top-line growth, but beating earnings-per- share estimates,” said Ivo Weinoehrl, who helps oversee about $657 billion at Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management in Frankfurt. “Companies are managing to squeeze out profits while margins are already at record highs. Share buybacks are also driving EPS through reduced share count.”

About 72 percent of the S&P 500 companies that have released results since the start of the earnings season have exceeded profit projections, while 52 percent have missed sales estimates, data compiled’ by Bloomberg show. News Corp. and Monster Beverage are among five S&P 500 companies reporting earnings today.

S&P record

The S&P 500 rose to its fourth straight record yesterday and the Dow closed above 15,000 for the first time on optimism over global central bank stimulus and better-than-estimated corporate earnings. U.S. stocks are in the fifth year of a bull market amid three rounds of bond purchases by the Federal Reserve.

“‘It’s hard to justify these levels in the market,” Weinoehrl said. “Liquidity and a re-pricing of equities versus other asset classes is driving the market higher and this may continue, but there’s no fundamental data that has made me more positive in the long run. On a standalone basis, risk-reward does not look particularly attractive.”

Whole Foods gained 8.2 percent to $100.45. Net income rose to about $142 million, or 76 cents a share, from $118 million, or 64 cents, a year earlier, the Austin, Texas-based company said yesterday. Analysts had projected profit of 73 cents a share, the average of 24 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Profit forecast

Whole Foods also said that profit excluding certain items will be as much as $2.89 a share in fiscal 2013, up from a previous estimate of as much as $2.87. Analysts estimate $2.87 a share, on average.

Electronic Arts increased 8.3 percent to $19.94. The company, which makes the “FIFA” and “SimCity” video games, forecast adjusted earnings of $1.20 a share in the year ending in March, exceeding the $1.10 average estimate compiled by Bloomberg.

Sotheby’s surged 8.2 percent to $37.80. The auction house sold a Paul Cezanne painting for $41.6 million in its Impressionist and modern art sale yesterday.

Symantec declined 6.2 percent to $23.55. Revenue in the current period, which ends in June, will be $1.61 billion to $1.65 billion, the biggest maker of security software said yesterday. Profit excluding some costs will be 35 cents to 36 cents a share. Analysts on average had projected sales of $1.7 billion and profit of 44 cents.

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