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Good morning! The Dow Jones today (Thursday, Dec. 4) is in reach of the vaunted 18,000 mark – a level our Capital Wave Strategist Shah Gilani predicted would happen by 2014's end. Yesterday's close saw the Dow gain 0.18% to 17,912.62 points. That marked the third-straight record finish for the index.
Today, investors will react to a slew of economic data and statements from central bank officials. Weekly unemployment benefits claims released this morning revealed a 17,000 slip to 297,000. That's bad news compared to last week, which saw jobless claims tick above 300,000 for the first time since September. The slip raises the stakes for tomorrow's Commerce Department report on November unemployment. Additionally today, the European Central Bank will make an announcement on whether it will maintain interest rate levels. It may also comment on the possible implementation of a bond-purchasing program.
Here's what else you should know about the stock market today – including your "Money Morning Tip of the Day" – to make Thursday profitable:
- Dividend Drivers: The board of The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) sweetened its dividend pot when it approved a 34% annual cash dividend increase. The new level is $1.15 per share, up $0.29. DIS stock was up more than 0.6% pre-market this morning. But the iconic entertainment brand isn't the only firm that boosted its yield to attract and reward investors. This week, we released an updated dividend-paying stocks list that features 25 companies that just hiked their payouts or delivered a special dividend for investors…
- Television Wars: The battle for eyeballs is heating up. According to reports, Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) could face significant problems against growing rival DIRECTV (Nasdaq: DTV) over its pending HBO streaming service. The Wall Street Journal reports that DIRECTV may scale back marketing of HBO if the channel's streaming service signs up more than 450,000 users across the country. Both firms are in the process of mega-mergers that would create the two largest cable companies in the U.S. – a concern that plays into why the net neutrality debate heated up in late 2014…
- Retail Exit: Specialty retailer Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY) announced plans to sell its struggling Chinese business Five Star to a local real estate firm. The company has regularly complained of challenges faced by U.S. firms to compete against domestic rivals in China. Best Buy said that its Chinese business only accounted for 4% of its sales. This is the second consecutive year that the firm has pulled back from international markets; in 2013, BBY exited Europe. Best Buy shares were up more than 2% this morning in pre-market trading. In early November, our Executive Editor told readers why the Chinese market is – and will continue to be – extraordinarily profitable for companies who can navigate it…
- Retailer Rout: Shares of Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE: ANF) were up nearly 3.5% yesterday despite news the company lowered its 2014 earnings forecast and missed third-quarter earnings. The stock slumped earlier in the trading day, but turned around in the afternoon. Meanwhile, shares of struggling specialty retailer Aeropostale Inc. (NYSE: ARO) slumped nearly 14% in pre-market trading hours after the company reported an adjusted $0.45 loss in the third quarter.
- Oil Prices Today: Oil prices declined on Thursday on news that U.S. oil stocks – meaning liquids in storage – had fallen more than expected. Also contributing were comments by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who said prices could fall further. This morning, December futures for U.S. crude, priced at the NYMEX in New York City, slipped below $67 per barrel. Meanwhile, Brent crude, priced in London, retreated below $70 per barrel. With OPEC intent on allowing prices to remain subdued, here is what you should know on how to play oil stocks in the months ahead…
- Earnings Reports: Stay tuned for earnings reports from United Natural Foods Inc. (Nasdaq: UNFI), Toro Co. (NYSE: TTC), Barnes & Noble Inc. (NYSE: BKS), Express Inc. (NYSE: EXPR), Christopher & Banks Corp. (NYSE: CBK), Toronto Dominion Bank (NYSE: TD), Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR), Dollar General Corp. (NYSE: DG), Gildan Activewear Inc. (NYSE: GIL), American Eagle Outfitters Inc. (NYSE: AEO), and Sears Holdings Corp. (Nasdaq: SHLD).
Full U.S. Economic Calendar December 4, 2014 (NYSE: all times EST):
- Challenger Job-Cut Report at 7:30 a.m.
- Gallup US Payroll to Population at 8:30 a.m.
- Jobless Claims at 8:30 a.m.
- Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Loretta Mester speaks at 8:30 a.m.
- Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index at 9:45 a.m.
- EIA Natural Gas Report at 10:30 a.m.
- 3-Month Bill Announcement at 11 a.m.
- 6-Month Bill Announcement at 11 a.m.
- 52-Week Bill Announcement at 11 a.m.
- 3-Year Note Announcement at 11 a.m.
- 10-Year Note Announcement at 11 a.m.
- 30-Year Bond Announcement at 11 a.m.
- Federal Reserve Gov. Lael Brainard speaks at 12:30 p.m.
- Treasury STRIPS at 3 p.m.
- Fed Balance Sheet at 4:30 p.m.
- Money Supply at 4:30 p.m.
Further Reading: Get the full story on the economic fallacy of lower oil prices here…