What to Watch in the Day Ahead - Thursday, Feb 18
(The Day Ahead is an email and PDF publication that includes the day's major stories and events, analyses and other features. To receive The Day Ahead, Eikon users can register at . Thomson One users can register at RT/DAY/US. All times in ET/GMT) Wal-Mart Stores Inc is expected to report fourth-quarter sales above analysts' expectations, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine. The world's biggest retailer is cutting costs and shutting its small format store chain Walmart Express in the United States in a bid to shore up profits and boost sales which have been hit by intense competition from traditional rivals and online player, Amazon. Wal-Mart is also spending big on sprucing up its stores, focusing more on grocery and food products and will hike pay for 1.2 million workers. The company expects these moves to translate into better customer service and help lift sales. Investors will be keen on any updates to the company's full-year forecast and other strategic decisions. Duke Energy Corp, the largest U.S. power company, is expected to report a higher profit in its fourth-quarter report, helped by lower costs and increase exposure to rate-regulated markets, where prices are stable. Investors will be looking for updates on the company's plan to sell its international business. Focus will also be on the company's plans to retire coal-fired plants, given a recent Supreme Court ruling that put on hold President Barack Obama's clean power plan. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits are estimated to have increased 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 275,000 for the week ended Feb.13. (0830/1330) Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve is likely to report that its business conditions index improved to a reading of -3.0 percent in February from -3.5 percent in January. (0830/1330) Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco President John Williams will be speaking on the economic outlook before a Town Hall Los Angeles event, in Los Angeles. Williams, a centrist who is seen as aligned with Fed Chair Janet Yellen, has long defended a data-driven approach to monetary policy; with mixed signals from the U.S. economy and clear weakness abroad. He will be watched for any signs he is backing away from an earlier view that the economy can withstand as many as five rate hikes this year. (1530/2030) Dish Network Corp, the No. 2 U.S. satellite TV company by revenue, is expected to report a marginal rise in quarterly revenue, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, helped by higher average revenue per pay-TV user. As the pay-TV industry tackles subscriber drops, Dish has been trying to lure young viewers to its cheaper $20-per-month Sling TV online streaming service. Dish has also been able to consistently manage churn for both its pay-TV and broadband businesses. In its fourth-quarter report, investors will be looking out for details on Dish's spectrum plans, as well as any comments on the Time Warner Cable-Charter deal. Chip equipment maker Applied Materials Inc is set to report first-quarter revenue marginally above analysts' expectations, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine. Applied Materials is expected to benefit from a slight uptick in demand from companies making smartphone and memory chips. Investors and analysts will be looking for detail on how the economic slowdown in China will hit the company in the future. Starwood Hotels & Resorts, the operator of Sheraton and St.Regis hotels, is expected to report lower fourth-quarter profit and revenue, hurt by declining RevPAR, a key indicator in the hotel industry, in the United States. Smaller operator Hyatt Hotels is also expected to report fourth-quarter results. The owner of the Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt and Hyatt Regency brands of hotels generates more than two-thirds of its revenue from within the United States, and is also expected to be hurt by the RevPAR decline. Investors will be looking for an update on the acquisition of Starwood by Marriott which was announced in November last year and its forecast for the full year. Discovery Communications Inc is expected to report fourth-quarter revenue slightly below analysts' average estimate, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine. The owner of Discovery Channel has been hit by a strong dollar as it generates nearly half of its revenue from outside the United States. Some analysts also say they expect international ad revenue growth to remain under pressure. Investors will want to see if strong domestic ad revenue can offset the weakness in its international business. Nordstrom Inc will be the first among department store operators to report fourth-quarter results. The company is likely to report sales and profit below analysts' average estimate, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine. Nordstrom, known for selling high-end apparel, had shocked investors last quarter with a forecast cut and sales much below expectations, citing unseasonably warm weather. Weak holiday season results from Macy's and Kohl's indicate that the fourth quarter was also weak for the department store sector. Analysts expect warmer-than-usual weather and a highly promotional environment for apparel in the quarter to have hurt Nordstrom's sales, with some warning of a drop in same-store sales. A slowdown in sales of high-end merchandise is likely to have compounded the retailer's problems. Enbridge Inc, Canada's largest oil pipeline company, is expected to report a higher fourth-quarter profit, helped by an increase in volumes across its pipeline network. Pipeline companies have been shielded from the oil price slump because they have fee-based contracts, but investors will want to know if the prolonged crude price slump is likely to begin to affect the volumes of oil they carry. Statistics Canada is scheduled to release the wholesale trade data. The value of Canadian wholesale trade likely rose 0.2 percent in December. (0830/1330) Fairfax Financial Holdings, an investment management and insurance company, is expected to report a higher fourth-quarter profit. The firm, led by well known contrarian investor Prem Watsa, uses funds generated by its profitable insurance business to invest in undervalued stocks. Watsa, who outlined his concerns about the U.S. economy in a letter to shareholders last March, is betting on deflation. He has invested in a number of derivatives that he will gain from if the consumer price index in certain countries breaches a particular level. LIVE CHAT on global growth with stratgist Michael Purves of Weeden Creator of the "Wolf Market" equities strategy that roams between bulls and bears, Michael Purves keeps a wide-ranging eye on global equities, commodities, precious metals and derivatives markets and will take questions on the global outlook, FOMC policies and oil. (1000 ET/1500 GMT) To join the Global Markets Forum, click here bit.ly/1kTxdKD LIVECHAT - SHOWBUZZ with Jean Tait and Mark Porter Join Reuters entertainment specialists Jean Tait and Mark Porter for a weekly discussion about music, movies, the theater and all of the showbiz buzz every Thursday at 1100 ET/1600 GMT. If you haven't signed up yet for Global Markets Forum, click here bit.ly/1kTxdKD (Compiled By Nayyar Rasheed in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)
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