Investors are poring over the latest earnings reports looking for evidence that companies can raise profits by increasing revenue rather than just by slashing costs. Results have been mixed. The S&P 500 eked out its second small gain of the week yesterday. It rose one point to 1,844. The Dow fell 41 points to 16,373. The Nasdaq climbed 17 points to 4,243. Futures point to a lower opening.
- Most international stock markets sank today after a report indicated that China's manufacturing, a mainstay of the world's second largest economy, was likely to shrink for the first time in half a year. Investors were rattled by the results of HSBC's preliminary survey of factory purchasing managers in January. The dollar fell against the euro and the yen. Benchmark crude oil fell but remained above $96.50 a barrel.
- Traders will focus on the government's weekly jobless claims report today. But they'll be interested in the Conference Board's leading economic indicators for December as well. The realtors association will release existing home sales for December and Freddie Mac will report weekly mortgage rates. As for earnings, McDonald's, Nokia, Southwest and United Continental report before the opening bell and Discover Financial, Microsoft and Starbucks report after the market closes.
- Lenovo Group has agreed to buy part of IBM's server business for $2.3 billion, adding to a product line-up that relies heavily on consumer-oriented computers and smartphones. Lenovo says it is acquiring IBM's x86 server business and expects to offer jobs to 7,500 IBM employees in locations around the world. Lenovo and IBM have collaborated for a number of years.
- Toyota remains the top automaker in global vehicle sales for the second year in a row, beating U.S. rival General Motors by some 270,000 vehicles in 2013. Toyota Motor Corp. says Thursday it sold 9.98 million vehicles worldwide last year, up 2 percent from the previous year, when it bounced back from an earthquake that devastated northeastern Japan in 2011. Toyota plans to sell 10.32 million vehicles globally in 2014. No automaker has ever topped 10 million.