Market Overview

The Week Ahead: Countdown to the Jobs Report

Despite dropping sharply last Monday, markets have managed to shake off economic uncertainty and ended the month of Feburary trading near all-time highs. The first full-week of March will present its own challenges, including a key jobs report Friday.

Earnings reports

At this point, earnings releases have slowed to a crawl. Still, investors will get releases from a few key companies like Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN), Pandora (NYSE: P), H&R Block (NYSE: HRB) and Sarepta Therapeutics (NASDAQ: SRPT). All four will report Thursday.

Texas Instruments will release a mid-quarter update Thursday. Analysts at Wedbush expect the release to be positive for shareholders. They have an Outperform rating on the stock and a $39 price target.

“We look for Texas Instruments to raise guidance to higher end of range,” Wedbush notes.

Rather than a mid-quarter update, Pandora will release its full earnings Thursday. Consensus expectations call for a loss per share of $0.05 on revenue of $122.63 million. Over the last three months, shares of Pandora have rallied nearly 40%.

Analysts at Albert Fried like Pandora and believe that it is a “great company” but acknowledge that it might not be the best stock for investors. They have a Market Perform rating and $13 price target.

Pandora is an intriguing stock simply from perspective of how hated it is -- about one-fifth of its shares have been sold short (bet against). The company faces growing competition from the likes of Rhapsody and Spotify, not to mention tech giants like Microsoft and possibly Apple. Despite the growing competition, Albert Fried's lead Pandora analyst Rich Tullo told Benzinga he isn't concerned.

H&R Block will also put out a full earnings release Thursday. Analysts are expecting the company to post a loss per share of $0.01 on revenue of $563.6 million. As it is currently the heat of tax season, the company's guidance might be equally as important as its actual earnings.

In fact, analysts at Compass Point Research believe its results will literally be “meaningless.” Compass Point has a Neutral rating and $28 price target. They note that most tax returns are filed in February and that there have been “IRS-driven” delays slowing things further. The make or break earnings release for H&R Block shareholders will likely come three months from now.

Biotech investors should look to Thursday for Sarepta Therapeutics' earnings release. Analysts expect the company to post a loss of $0.29 per share on revenue of $6.71 million.

Yet, as with most smaller biotech companies, progress on its upcoming drugs may prove to be more important than its earnings release. Its drug Eteplirsen -- for the treatment of DMD -- is currently undergoing clinical trials.

“Congressional delegations in Pennsylvania and Vermont are pushing the FDA for approval for their constituents with children who have DMD,” Zach Prensky, the editor of Little Bear Research, told Benzinga. Prensky owns shares of Sarepta.

Economic releases

More than earnings reports, however, next week could be dominated by economic releases.

The U.S. nonfarm payroll report, which will be released Friday morning, is likely to be the most significant. Economists generally believe it to be the best indicator of the strength of the U.S. job market. Current consensus estimates call for a gain of 160,000 jobs.

Markets will also get data consumer credit, the trade balance and nonfarm productivity on Thursday. ADP nonfarm employment change, released Wednesday, will act as a preview for the nonfarm report on Friday. Tuesday will see the release of the ISM non-manufacturing report.

Weekly calendar

Monday

  • Earnings from: Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS), Shuffle Master (NASDAQ: SHFL), Nautilus Group (NYSE: NLS)
  • U.K. Construction PMI, Australian Retail Sales, Australian Interest Rate Decision

Tuesday

  • Earnings from: Smith & Wesson (NASDAQ: SWHC), Qihoo 360 (NYSE: QIHU), Constellation Energy (NYSE: CEP)
  • Eurozone Retail Sales, U.S. ISM Non-Manufacturing Index, Australian GDP

Wednesday

  • Earnings from: The Fresh Market (NASDAQ: TFM), PetSmart (NASDAQ: PETM), Hovnanian (NYSE: HOV), Big Lots (NYSE: BIG)
  • Eurozone GDP, U.S. ADP Nonfarm Employment Change, Canadian Interest Rate Decision, Canadian Ivey PMI, Australian Trade Balance

Thursday

  • Earnings from: Texas Instruments, Sarepta Therapeutics, Pandora, H&R Block
  • Swiss Unemployment Rate, German Factory Orders, Brazilian Industrial Production, U.K. Interest Rate Decision, Eurozone Interest Rate Decision, Canadian Trade Balance, U.S. Nonfarm Productivity, U.S. Trade Balance, Japanese GDP

Friday

  • U.K. CPI, U.K. PPI, German Industrial Production, Canadian Housing Starts, Canadian Employmentt Change, U.S. Nonfarm Payrolls, U.S. Unemployment Rate, Chinese CPI, Chinese PPI

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