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Good Morning! Futures for the stock market today forecasted an 85-point decrease for the Dow Jones from yesterday's close. The Dow Jones slipped 128 points yesterday due to investor jitters about interest rates, compounded by falling oil prices and new concerns about the U.S. economy.
What to Watch Today: Later this afternoon, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will announce the central bank's interest rate decision at 2:30 p.m. Although the FOMC is not expected to increase interest rates, the markets will be looking for clues from Yellen's press conference on a timeline for changes in monetary policy.
Investors with an eye abroad will watch three distinct events. In the U.K., the Bank of England will release its most recent meeting notes from the Monetary Policy Committee. In China, the National Bureau of Statistics will release a report on housing prices at a time when concerns about its mortgage and credit markets are in flux. Finally, Japan will release February trade data at a time when the nation faces a weakening currency and concerns about its economic conditions.
Here's what else you should know about the stock market today – including your "Money Morning Tip of the Day" – to make it a profitable Wednesday:
- An Apple a Day: Shares of Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) were flat in pre-market hours, despite news the company received a price upgrade from investment bank Jeffries. In a research note, analysts stated that the company's iPhone demand has been driven significantly by Chinese demand in the first quarter. Following the closing bell today, Apple stock will replace telecom giant AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
- Social Banking: Shares of Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) were on the rise Tuesday on news that the company's Messenger app will allow users to send each other money on its newest platform. Users will be able to link a Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) or MasterCard Inc. (NYSE: MA) debit card to their account and transfer money directly to friends with the push of a dollar sign within the chat box. The feature is still in testing and will be available in the United States within the next few months.
- BABA Blues: Shares of Alibaba stock were down 1.4% this morning. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.'s (NYSE: BABA) IPO lockup expires today and more than 337 million additional shares will float on the markets. Institutions predominately hold the shares. In May, the company will experience its second lockup expiration when another 100 million shares, primarily owned by employees, will hit the markets. The stock is down roughly 18% so far this year.
- Earnings Struggles: Shares of Oracle Corp. (NYSE: ORCL) were up more than 1.2% in post-market hours despite news that company revenues slipped roughly 3% in its latest quarter. Oracle's revenue streams were affected by a rising U.S. dollar, which has also affected countless other American companies abroad. The company reported that earnings were flat, but it committed to hiking its dividend. This was the first earnings report the company has registered since news broke that its CEO earned more than $100 million in compensation last year.
- Oil Prices Today: Oil prices continue to crater, falling to their lowest levels since 2008 on oversupply concerns. Brent crude dipped 0.5% this morning to hit $53.21. Meanwhile, April 2015 futures for WTI crude fell 2.6% to $42.33 per barrel. Prices could continue to slump further when the Energy Information Administration (EIA) releases data on U.S. petroleum inventories this morning.
- Earnings Reports: Investors can expect earnings reports today from FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX), Williams-Sonoma Inc. (NYSE: WSM), Tilly's Inc. (Nasdaq: TLYS), Renren Inc. (Nasdaq: RENN), NQ Mobile Inc. (NYSE: NQ), Guess Inc. (NYSE: GES), and General Mills Inc. (NYSE: GIS).
Full U.S. Economic Calendar March 18, 2015
- MBA Mortgage Application at 7 a.m.
- EIA Petroleum Status Report at 10:30 a.m.
- FOMC Meeting Announcement at 2 p.m.
- Chair Press Conference at 2:30 p.m.
- FOMC Forecasts at 2:30 p.m.
West Texas Intermediate fell below $43 a barrel Tuesday morning to hit a six-year low on concerns that a supply glut in the United States is outpacing storage capacity. About 60% of U.S. storage systems are currently full, up from 48% in 2014.
Worries that we could fill all of our energy storage systems are real. But they are also creating profit opportunities for investors.
According to Money Morning Global Energy Strategist Dr. Kent Moors, midstream companies are the "sweet spot" of energy investing. They connect the "upstream" exploration and production companies to the "downstream" retail, refining, and marketing channels. They also provide vital services in transportation, storage, and processing.
Even with falling oil prices, the midstream is booming.
"When you invest in the midstream, you're far less susceptible to price fluctuations in the underlying commodity, and you are able to collect easy profits from the growing demand in fuels," said Moors.
The best way to play the soaring demand for midstream services is Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs). Even in the face of declining prices, these midstream equities benefit from the continued rise in storage, transport, and processing of fuels.
Midstream MLPs are also strong picks in the face of a pending Federal Reserve interest rate hike.
Their "fee-based" model allows them to negotiate long-term contracts. They factor year-over-year prices into these contracts in case inflation occurs down the line. That's how they can sustain their distribution growth for investors amid high interest rates.
The fee-based model also keeps midstream MLPs profitable when oil and gas prices are low.
To learn more about the benefits of MLPs, and get our favorite MLP to buy now, go here: 3 New Master Limited Partnerships to Watch in 2015