Good morning friends and Fortune readers.
Many East Coasters are snowed in this morning as a winter storm sweeps across the Northeast. Driving bans are in place in many areas, thousands of flights are canceled, although snowfall levels fell short of the three feet initially predicted.
Many businesses are closed, but Wall Street is open, and it’s looking like an ugly open for stocks. U.S. stock futures are down sharply after earnings results from sector bellwethers Microsoft (MSFT) and Caterpillar(CAT), which warned that a recent drop in oil prices will hurt its business in 2015. A gloomy report on durable goods orders isn’t helping the dour mood.
Here’s what else you need to know today.
1. Data, data, data.
A slew of companies report their quarterly earnings today, including Proctor & Gamble, Pfizer and DuPont this morning.
Pfizer (PFE) reported stronger-than-expected results due to sales of vaccines and cancer drugs, but lowered its 2015 earnings forecast.
P&G (PG) reported a 31% drop in quarterly profit. Net profit fell to 82 cents a share, well below analysts’ expectations of $1.13 a share.
DuPont (DD), which is an ongoing battle with activist investor Nelson Peltz, posted a profit of 74 cents a share, but lowered its outlook for 2015 due to a strengthening dollar.
Later today, Apple and Yahoo take the stage. Apple (AAPL) is expected to post its biggest profit gain in nearly two years due to booming iPhone sales. Look out to see if the tech giant sold more iPhones in China than the U.S. for the first time. Yahoo (YHOO) will finally talk about its plans for its $40 billion stake in Alibaba (BABA), which went public late last year. The big question will be how it can avoid a massive tax bill if it sells some of the shares.
2. White House wants to expand East Coast drilling.
The Obama administration is expected to announce a proposal to open up coastal waters from Virginia down to Georgia for offshore drilling. Oil and gas companies have been pushing for this win, though environmental groups worry that it leaves more shores vulnerable to environmental disasters such as the BP Gulf Coast spill. The proposal still has to go through months of public hearings, but it does not require congressional approval. The administration will also ban drilling in areas of Alaska, around the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.
3. Britain’s economic growth was highest in seven years.
The U.K. posted its fourth-quarter GDP this morning, which fell short of expectations. Growth over the final months of 2014 clocked in at 0.6%, below the 0.7% estimated by economists. The slow down was credited to a slowdown in construction, mining and energy. Britain’s overall growth for the year clocked in at 2.6%. That’s the strongest gains its economy has seen since 2007. The International Monetary Fund expects the U.K. to grow even faster in 2015, at an estimated 2.7% rate.
4. Say hello to the world’s newest and largest law firm.
Dentons, a multinational law firm, agreed to purchase Dacheng Law Offices of China. The merger creates a firm with the world’s largest lawyer headcount. It will be renamed Dacheng Dentons and will have more than 6,500 lawyers across more than 50 countries. Baker & Mckenzie, previously the world’s largest law firm with nearly 4,300 lawyers, now slides down to second place.
5. The Koch brothers gear up for 2016.
Conservative billionaires David and Charles Koch plan to invest $889 million in the 2016 U.S. presidential and congressional campaigns through their political network. The spending goal was revealed Monday at the brothers’ annual winter donor retreat outside of Palm Springs, Calif. To meet that goal, it would require a financial commitment from the Kochs as well as almost 300 other donors. The upcoming elections are already on track to become the most expensive in history. During the last presidential run, the Republican National Committee and the party’s two congressional campaign groups spent about $657 million.