Futures eased slightly this morning as the market sought to catch its breath after sprinting higher Wednesday. All indices had strong gains after better-than-expected first-quarter earnings reports from JPMorgan Chase, Coca-Cola Co., and Intel Corp. The Dow industrials finished up 257 points, or 2.08%, the S&P 500 rose 30 points or 2.27% and the Nasdaq Composite closed up 64 points or 2.8%.
IBM (NYSE: IBM) reported very strong Q1 figures after the close Wednesday. The company had income from continuing operations of $2.3 billion, or $1.65 a share, up from $1.8 billion, or $1.21 a share, a year ago. IBM was aided by the weakness of the U.S. dollar, with some 65% of revenue coming from overseas. eBay also had a good quarter, with profit climbing 22%.
However, there was a disappointing earnings report from Merrill Lynch (NYSE: MER) this morning. The company lost $1.96 billion, or $2.19 a share, compared with net income of $2.16 billion, or $2.26 a share, a year ago, after billions of dollars of writedowns related to the subprime crisis. Merrill plans to cut about 4,000 jobs, or 10% of its workforce. Nokia (NYSE: NOK)'s quarterly income rose 25% to 1.22 billion euros, up from 979 million euros a year earlier, but missing analysts expectations of 1.38 billion euros, according to Bloomberg News. Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) also missed analysts' estimates for the quarter, with profit falling 18%.
The U.S. dollar hit another all-time low against the euro, while oil prices hit an all-time high of more than $115 a barrel. According to the U.S. Energy Department, inventories of gasoline fell 5.5 million barrels last week. Related to the ongoing increase in oil prices, Continental Airlines reported a loss for the first quarter, while Southwest Airlines earnings declined. However, American Airlines yesterday posted a smaller-than-expected loss.
In the news today, Yahoo! moves closer to deal with Google on outsourcing search advertising, according to the Wall Street Journal. Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) is expected to release earnings this afternoon.
In economic data, unemployment claims for the week ending April 5 will be released at 8:30 a.m. EST; the Philadelphia Fed report will be out at 10:00 a.m.