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Tickers in this Article: WMT, DLTR, CSCO, TGT, SHLD, FB
August 16, 2012

This is Mark Vickery, again covering for Sheraz Mian while he is away this week.

We're again chock-full of data this morning: Initial Jobless Claims are up, Housing Starts are down, Building Permits are up quite a bit, and earnings reports are mixed.

Initial Jobless Claims remain range-bound in the 360-370K area, up 200K this week to 366K from an upwardly revised 344K last week. Continuing Claims were more or less unchanged at 3.34 million. In other words, things aren't getting better, but they're not really getting any worse. What's a way to update the phrase "broken record"?

Housing Starts -- these days a closely-watched indicator of a potential rebound in the homebuilding industry -- were down 1.1% in July, although Building Permits -- an indicator of future Housing Starts -- were up a surprising 6.8% in July, far surpassing the 3.1% in June. Perhaps there is reason for hope the housing market will come back sooner than later, but this volatility seems to say the jury's still out.

In earnings news, Wal-Mart (WMT) beat EPS estimates by a penny but missed on revenues; more importantly, the world's largest retailer gave lackluster guidance, which is in strong contrast to Target's (TGT) impressive beat-and-raise yesterday. Elsewhere, Dollar Tree (DLTR) beat estimates soundly on strong year-over-year revenue numbers. And Sears Holdings (SHLD) missed EPS expectations but citing improving profit margins.

Yesterday after the bell, Cisco Systems (CSCO) reported decent numbers, beating on the bottom line, but made investors take notice when the company raised its dividend by 75%. Considering the tech giant only began offering dividends last year, its yield is now over 3%.

Today, Facebook's (FB) share lockup expires, meaning holders of FB shares finally have an opportunity to sell off their holdings of the popular -- but poorly performing -- social media site. Facebook is down 3% in this morning's pre-market, but there are 2 bigger expiring lockups coming this fall, so it remains to be seen how many investors will rid themselves of FB shares right now.

Mark Vickery
Senior Editor
 
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