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Pre-Market: Samsung Profit Declines; Harsh Weather Hurts JetBlue, Southwest

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The Apple iPhone 5S release made things difficult for Samsung in the holiday quarter.

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Stocks are set to reverse yesterday's gains today, but a spell of freezing weather in the US could hurt airlines and temporarily weigh on the economy.

JetBlue Airways Corp (NASDAQ:JBLU) is one company in particular that has been affected by the harsh weather. Flight delays related to the sub-zero temperatures forced the airline to stop all scheduled flights from New York and Boston until later this morning. JetBlue missed more than half of its 900 scheduled flights yesterday and more than a quarter were canceled today. Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE:LUV) also suspended all service from Chicago yesterday. Both airlines' share prices recovered slightly this morning after dropping considerably yesterday.

Samsung (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) reported its first earnings decline in more than two years. In the final quarter of 2013, the Korean conglomerate saw operating profit fall to $7.8 billion from $8.4 billion a year earlier. This was far below analysts' earnings estimate of $9.3 billion. Sales of the Galaxy S4 smartphone were hit by strong demand for the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 5S during the holiday shopping season.

China opened up its gaming market to foreign consoles such as Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox and Sony's (NYSE:SNE) Playstation. For more than a decade, Chinese gamers have had to break the law to get their hands on those machines. In 2012, the market for PC games in China generated almost $14 billion in revenue.

Consumer-tech companies and automakers could see heavy trading today as the annual Consumer Electronics Show begins in Las Vegas. One of the biggest themes that industry watchers expect this year will be the future of connected cars. There is a rumor that Audi (FRA:NSU) might announce a partnership with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) to integrate the Android mobile-operating system into its cars.

Palo Alto Networks (NASDAQ:PANW), a computer security company, surged 5% in pre-market trading this morning after announcing that it acquired Morta Security. The price it paid for the acquisition was not disclosed.

Stock indices are likely to rise today. Before the opening bell, future contracts on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) were up 0.38% to 16,428.00. After a third straight day of declines on Monday, S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) futures rose 0.38% to 1,820.50 this morning. Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) futures gained 0.46% to 3,534.00.

The only major economic data point on today's calendar is US international trade. America's trade deficit narrowed to $34.3 billion in November 2013, down from $39.3 billion in October of last year.

Janet Yellen was confirmed as the next head of the Federal reserve yesterday. The Senate voted 56-26 to have her succeed Ben Bernanke. Fed members Eric Rosengren and John Williams will both deliver speeches today.

European shares rose overnight despite a report showing that the eurozone's inflation rate was just 0.8% in December 2013. This is below the target rate and economists' estimates, and just a tenth of a point higher than October's level, which prompted the European Central Bank to cut interest rates. Economists are concerned that Europe's slow inflation could threaten the economy, and it is likely that the ECB will respond with stimulus measures.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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