Wall Street waits for Fed, earnings; Europe stocks are hot; Rob Lowe ads challenged

Wall Street (^GSPC) is in “wait and see” mode at midday ahead of this afternoon’s release of the minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting and the start of first-quarter earnings season.

New York Stock Exchange floor trader Keith Bliss of Cuttone & Co. tells Yahoo Finance the doom and gloom scenarios being painted ahead of the corporate profit reports could work in favor of the bulls.

“There is potential upside simply because everybody is expecting such a bad quarter,” he says. “People are going to blame it on the weather, they’re going to blame it on the strong dollar, blame it on the slide in oil.”

Speaking of oil, Bliss points to a new report that shows soaring U.S. oil (OIL) inventories and Saudi Arabia’s comments that it will keep pumping despite setting records for production as potentially very good news for American drivers.

“Consumers need to watch the brent crude (BNO) numbers because that’s what affects prices at the pump,” he says. “So if we see brent get down into the 40’s, then we should see pump prices come down substantially. And that should help all of us.”

Meantime, across the pond, Europe is hot with the German DAX (^GDAXI) hitting 15-year highs. These gains being aided today by the mega-merger of Royal Dutch Shell (RDS-A) and BG Group (BG.L), as well as the ECB’s stimulus program.

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More evidence came to light today that companies are increasingly using data to measure your performance. First, the New York Times reported that John Hancock is offering discounts on life insurance policies if you provide updates on your health, such as your workout regime. And JP Morgan Chase (JPM) is reportedly using data to track its employees. Bloomberg reported that the surveillance program uses data points, such as violations of market-risk limits, to detect rogue workers.

And If you have cable you’ve probably seen the ads for DirecTV (DTV) featuring actor Rob Lowe as a “normal” DirecTV customer and a “weird” cable customer. Now, the Better Business Bureau is recommending that DirecTV discontinue the ads after Comcast (CMCSA) complained that many of the commercials’ claims could not be substantiated. DirecTV rejects the notion that consumers would be fooled by the ads.

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