10 Things You Need To Know Before The Opening Bell

Costa concordiaREUTERS/Alessandro BianchiCruise liner Costa Concordia is seen during a refloat operation at Giglio harbour at Giglio Island July 14, 2014.

Good morning! Here’s what you need to know:

Here Comes Janet Yellen! Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen heads to Congress to give her Semiannual Monetary Policy Report. She will address the Senate Banking Committee today at 10:00 a.m. ET. “Yellen will have little choice but to acknowledge the improvement in the labour market when she testifies next week,” said Credit Suisse economists. “With the unemployment rate plunging and with inflation trending higher, some in Congress will press her to explain why exceptionally accommodative monetary policy is still required to reach the Fed’s objectives.”

Microsoft’s Cutting Jobs. “Microsoft Corp. is planning its biggest round of job cuts in five years, as the software maker looks to slim down and integrate Nokia Oyj’s handset unit, people with knowledge of the company’s plans said,” reported Bloomberg’s Dina Bass.

German Investor Confidence Continues To Slide. Germany’s Zew economic expectations index tumbled to 27.1 in July from 29.8 in June. Economists were forecasting a more modest decline to 28.2. “German investors continue to mark down their expectations for the economy, which is now a worrying trend,” said Pantheon Macroeconomics’ Claus Vistesen. “The expectations component of this survey has dropped every single month so far this year, as a sign that investors don’t believe that the benign conditions seen in the past year will last.”

Market Update. U.S. futures are modestly in the red with Dow futures down 9 points and S&P futures down 2.6 points. In Europe stocks are also down with Britain’s FTSE 100 down 0.1%, France’s CAC 40 down 0.4%, and Germany’s DAX down 0.4%. Asia closed higher with Japan’s Nikkei up 0.6% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng up 0.5%.

Get Ready Big Bank Earnings. JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs Group are scheduled to announce their Q2 financial results later this morning. Analysts expect JPM to report $US1.31 per share and Goldman to report $US3.09 per share. Everyone will be listening carefully for updates on the banks’ trading and mortgage businesses, which have seen sharp declines across Wall Street.

June Retail Sales Check. Economists estimate sales climbed 0.6% in June, while increasing by 0.5% excluding autos and gas. “Vehicle sales continued to strengthen in the month, which should apply upward pressure to retail sales,” said Wells Fargo’s John Silvia. “Gains are likely to be broad-based as well. Chain store sales posted a relatively large gain in June, and consumer confidence has reached its highest level in more than six years. Consumer prices also made solid gains in the month, which should push the headline number higher.”

Empire Manufacturing Check. Economists estimate this regional activity index fell to 17.00 in July from 19.28 in June. “We expect the Empire manufacturing index to moderate to 16.5 in July after two straight months of above-19 prints,” said Bank of America Merrill Lynch economists. “Manufacturing was quite sluggish from February to April, and these last two strong prints were likely boosted by pent-up production and demand. That said, broad economic fundamentals are still on a positive trend, suggesting a still-solid report in July.”

Mum And Pop Are Piling Into Stocks. “Individual investors are plowing money back into the U.S. stock market just as professional strategists say gains for this year are over,” reported Bloomberg’s Lu Wang. “About $US100 billion has been added to equity mutual funds and exchange-traded funds in the past year, 10 times more than the previous 12 months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and the Investment Company Institute. “

Bill Gross Threatened To Quit. Amid turmoil in PIMCO’s executive suite after then CEO Mohamed El-Erian’s sudden departure earlier this year, management put increasing amounts of pressure on the firm’s face Bill Gross. “About three months ago, a group of Pimco senior executives became so concerned about Mr. Gross’s dealings with the media that they warned him to stop making public comments they viewed as divisive, according to people familiar with the matter,” reported the WSJ’s Greg Zuckerman and Kirsten Grind. “Mr. Gross, the face of a firm that manages $US1.97 trillion and its star investor, has threatened to quit more than once since Mr. El-Erian’s March departure, including after that warning, the people say. “

Getting To The Bottom Of CYNK. CYNK Technology, a company with no revenue and no assets, captured everyone’s imagination when its penny stock exploded by 25,000% in just a month. Business Insider’s Julia La Roche and Hunter Walker were able to track down one of the founders. “A pair of brothers have been tied to the mysterious social networking company … and one of them has a history of involvement in questionable businesses,” they reported. Their names: John and Phil Kueber…

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