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Pre-Market: Stocks Rise as Apple Earnings Loom; Merck Shares Fall as Singulair Goes Off Patent

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The S&P is set to extend a record high today.

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Stock futures rose today as investors prepare for an economic data storm and earnings from the most valuable company in the world.

US stock index futures were just slightly higher this morning. Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) futures were up 0.16% at 15,522.00. After hitting a fresh all-time high on Friday, futures on the S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) gained 0.13% to 1,756.20. Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) futures climbed 0.22% to 3,381.25.

Later this morning, the Federal Reserve will release data on US industrial production for September, which economists predict will show a second straight month of 0.4% month-over-month growth. The capacity utilization rate is likely to have ticked up to 78%. Following that release, The National Association of Realtors' pending home sales index will be released. The index is expected to have stayed flat in September. The Federal Open Markets Committee begins its meeting tomorrow.

After the closing bell, results from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) will likely dominate the news. Analysts predict that fourth fiscal quarter earnings will come in at $7.93 per share, down from $8.67 per share in the year-earlier period. Blockbuster sales of the iPhone 5S may have helped, but the phone was released very late in the quarter. Pre-market shares of Apple are up slightly, and year-to-date shares are down just 1.17%. Hard numbers for iPhone and iPad sales and Apple's forecast for the holiday season, when the laggard 5C might gain some traction, will be the most interesting parts of the earnings call.

Herbalife (NYSE:HLF), the multilevel marketer that was targeted by Bill Ackman's short almost a year ago, will also report after the close. EPS is expected to come in at $1.14.

Merck & Co, Inc. (NYSE:MRK) shares fell 1.7% this morning after the pharmaceutical company reported that third quarter earnings were down 35% as it no longer has exclusivity for Singulair. Profit fell to $0.48 per share from $0.56 per share a year ago, but excluding one-time items, EPS fell $0.03 to $0.92, beating expectations. Revenue, however, fell 4% to $11.03 billion. It's No. 1 seller, Singlulair, the asthma and allergy drug, went off patent last year.

Over the weekend, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE:NYX) did a dry run of the forthcoming Twitter IPO. The exchange did a test on Saturday to ensure that it doesn't repeat the embarrassing technical mistakes that marred Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) debut on Nasdaq (NASDAQ:NDAQ) last summer.

Last quarter, Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE:TM) outsold all of its competitors as the weaker yen made its cars more competitive globally. Thanks to "Abenomics," the government's anti-inflation push, sales rose 2.8% to 2.5 million in the July-September period. General Motors (NYSE:GM) sales rose 5.5% to 2.4 million. Toyota is on track to post record profit this year. The yen weakened to 97.6 to the dollar today. A year ago it was at 79.8 to the dollar.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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