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FOMC Meeting a Snoozer, Caterpillar Sales Decline Sharply

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Today's financial recap and tomorrow's financial outlook.

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Cyprus continued to be on the radar screen today, but it didn't have as much market-moving impact as it did the prior two days. More of the focus was on the FOMC's rate decision and economic outlook. The result was mostly a snoozer; the Fed reiterated that it would keep policy very accommodative until the unemployment rate reached 6.5%, which it forecasts it will reach at some point in 2015. In his quarterly press conference, Chairman Ben Bernanke gave no new information about changes to the pace of purchases, but said that if the labor market had sustained growth for a number of months, the Fed could then begin easing the flow of its monthly purchases.

There were very few relevant global economic releases today. In the UK, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne presented the 2013 budget to the UK Parliament. UK markets were buoyed by Osborne's efforts to boost home purchases through his "Help to Buy" program.

News from Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) and FedEx (NYSE:FDX) was particularly troubling. Global retail sales for Caterpillar declined 13% on a 3-month rolling basis, partially from shrinking inventories, but also due to a dramatic slowdown in Asian and North American purchases. Caterpillar fell 1.65% on the day and remains in negative territory for the year. Other mining companies such as Joy Global (JOY) were also in negative territory.

FedEx fell 7% on the day as it noted significant declines in revenues and order growth in Asia and forecast continued declines in Asia. Full-year EPS was revised lower to $1.90-$2.10 versus $2.12 estimates as the company's management noted overcapacity in international air freight. The company's current quarter EPS missed at $1.23 versus $1.38 estimates, and revenues beat at $11 billion versus $10.95 billion estimates.

Tomorrow's Financial Outlook

Tomorrow's economic data will be a little bit more robust. In the US, weekly jobless claims are due out in the morning with the economist forecast at 340,000, below the 4-week moving average of 346,800 and up from 332,000 last month. The Philadelphia Fed regional manufacturing survey is expected to rise to -2 in March from February's -12.5, still indicating weakness, but at a reduced pace. Lastly, existing home sales are expected to rise to an annual rate of 5 million from 4.92 million the month prior.

Globally, China will release its flash manufacturing PMI index overnight, with modest expansion forecast to 50.8 from 50.4 last month. The eurozone will also release the first estimate of its PMI composite, with modest growth expected to a still recessionary 48.2 from last month's 47.9. Lastly, the UK will release retail sales from February, with solid growth expected.

The earnings reports on the calendar include Nike (NYSE:NKE), Ross Stores (NASDAQ:ROST), ConAgra (NYSE:CAG), and Micron Tech (NASDAQ:MU).

Twitter: @Minyanville

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