10 Things You Need To Know Before The Opening Bell

Sky blue piano flying carperREUTERS/Lukas BarthGerman pianist Stefan Aaron plays an orange piano on a ‘flying carpet’ platform suspended from a helicopter, over the Munich airport July 23, 2014.

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

Facebook Is Doing Better Than Expected. Facebook reported Q2 earnings and revenue that beat analysts expectations, and the stock is up by almost 8% in premarket trading. At $US0.42, earnings per share beat expectations by a whopping $US0.12. Monthly active users jumped 14% to 1.32 billion. Mobile monthly active users exploded 31% to 1.07 billion.

China Is Doing Better Than Expected. China’s flash manufacturing PMI jumped to an 18-month high of 52.0 in July, signaling accelerating growth in the sector. Economists were expecting a reading of 51.0. “Economic activity continues to improve in July, suggesting that the cumulative impact of mini-stimulus measures introduced earlier is still filtering through,” said HSBC’s Hongbin Qu. “We expect policy makers to maintain their accommodative stance over the next few months to consolidate the recovery.”

Germany Is Doing Better Than Expected. Germany’s flash PMI jumped to a 3-month high of 55.9 in July, beating expectations for 53.8. “Following the joy of lifting the football World Cup trophy, July’s flash PMI results provide further positive news for Germany,” said Markit’s Oliver Kolodseike. “A deeper look into the data shows that the main driver of the strong PMI reading was the service sector, where companies reported the steepest increase in activity for just over three years. That said, manufacturing also made a positive contribution to the numbers, suggesting that the economic upturn remains broad-based.”

France Is Doing Better Than Expected. France’s flash PMI jumped to a 3-month high of 49.4 in July, beating expectations for 48.3. “The French private sector economy remained in reverse gear in July, dragged down by weakness in the manufacturing industry which offset a small improvement in services,” said Markit’s Jack Kennedy. “PMI data remain consistent with quarterly GDP close to stagnation levels, as the economy continues to show little sign of turning around its recent sluggish performance.”

Japan Is Not Doing Better Than Expected. Despite policymakers’ ongoing efforts to stimulate the economy by making export goods more competitive via a weaker yen, trade numbers disappointed. The trade deficit narrowed to 822.2 billion yen in June, but it was wider than the 642.9 billion yen estimated. Japan’s flash PMI was nothing to celebrate either, falling to 50.8 in July from 51.5 in June. “Japanese manufacturers’ new orders remained in growth territory for the second month running, while there was a rise in new exports for the first time in four months,” said Markit’s Amy Brownbill. “These weren’t enough to prevent output stagnating, although this most likely reflects a little payback from the solid gains seen in June and the on-going unwinding of the impact of the the hike in sales tax earlier in the year.”

Ford’s Doing Better Than Expected. Ford announced Q2 earnings of $US0.40 per share, which was better than the $US0.36 expected. Revenue of $US37.4 billion was also higher than expected. Management attributed the healthy quarter to improvement in Europe and robust growth in China.

Markets Like All This. The S&P 500 closed at an all-time high on Wednesday, and futures are pointing to another day in the green. U.S. futures are up modestly with Dow futures up 28 points and S&P futures up 3 points. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 is up 0.1%, France’s CAC 40 is up 0.6%, and Germany’s DAX is up 0.4%. Asia closed with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng up 0.7%.

Housing Market Update At 10:00 A.M. ET. Economists estimate sales fell 5.8% to an annualized pace of 475,000. “Given the outsized increase in May, a downward revision is also possible,” said Bank of America Merrill Lynch economists. “Smoothing through some of the monthly swings, we see an improving trend for housing demand after a weak winter.This is also consistent with the modest recovery in the NAHB homebuilder sentiment survey.”

Keep An Eye On Claims. Economists estimate weekly initial jobless claims ticked up 307,000 from 302,000 a week ago. “Initial jobless claims probably remained near the 300,000 mark as seasonal factors likely continued to misestimate actual claims activity during the July auto factory shutdown season,” said Citi’s Peter D’Antonio. “We posit that filing have been artificially low, relative to the May-June average, reflecting in part the inability of the seasonal factors to account for two post-crisis trends in the auto sector: (1) the auto sector is much smaller, resulting in fewer hourly worker claims than before; and (2) many factories stay open in order to accommodate stronger demand. Separately, beneficiaries and the insured rate likely also remained low due to factory retooling period seasonal factor idiosyncrasies.”

The SEC’s Going After S&P. “The parent of Standard & Poor’s, which is defending against a $US5 billion lawsuit by the federal government over its credit ratings, said on Wednesday it may soon also face U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charges over another set of ratings,” reported Reuters’ Jonathan Stempel and Sarah Lynch. “In a regulatory filing, McGraw-Hill Financial Inc said it received a “Wells notice” on July 22 indicating the SEC is weighing filing civil charges for alleged securities law violations over S&P’s ratings of six commercial mortgage-backed securities transactions issued in 2011.”

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