Reuters

(Reuters)

What to Watch on Thursday's Earnings Front

By Markets FOXBusiness

U.S. equity markets looked to post slight gains at the opening bell on Thursday morning, a session after the Federal Reserve sent stocks down at least 1% as some traders viewed the FOMC’s January policy statement as not quite dovish enough.

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A busy earnings calendar kept investors active as they parsed fresh quarterly results.  Here are the top five things to watch in the markets.

Facebook

After the closing bell on Wednesday, the social media giant posted fourth-quarter results that handily beat Wall Street’s expectations. Facebook (FB) posted adjusted earnings per share of 79 cents on revenue of $5.84 billion, while expectations called for profits of 68 cents a share on revenue of $5.37 billion.

Further, the company said full-year revenue popped 44%, while mobile active users rose 14% year over year, and mobile advertising accounted for 80% of its total ad revenue. The company’s shares extended hefty gains in after-hours action, jumping more than 13% ahead of the opening bell. If the rally holds through the trading day, it would be Facebook’s biggest gain in two years.

Amazon & Microsoft

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All eyes will be on Amazon (AMZN) after the closing bell when the company takes the wraps off its latest earnings report card, following strong performances from Netflix (NFLX) and Facebook.

Amazon is expected to report EPS of $1.56 on revenue of $39.93 billion. So far for the first quarter, the e-commerce giant has predicted a drop in performance with 72 cents in earnings and $27.68 billion in sales. The company on Thursday said sales on Exclusives, a platform for products only available on Amazon, rose above $50 million during its first year. It was the first time the company has released data on the platform.  

Alibaba

As investors in the U.S. await Amazon’s quarterly earnings, they parsed figures from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA). The company said fiscal third-quarter revenue jumped 32% and was helped by strong holiday sales.

Active buyers came in at 407 million, more than the 386 million reported in the previous quarter. Meanwhile, mobile active users rose to 393 million from 346 million in the fiscal second quarter.  

The company said, though, that the total value of goods sold on its China retail platforms rose 23% during the quarter, but it was the slowest rate in more than three years, according to Reuters. Alibaba said it continues to look for expansion opportunities for online shopping in other areas.

Google

Google is under the microscope across the pond after a member of the Scottish National Party (SNP) raised concerns about Google’s $180 million tax settlement with British authorities, announced last Friday. European Union regulators said they would look into the issue and scrutinize the deal.

At issue, the Financial Times reported, was the settlement by Google agreeing to pay back taxes dated 2005 onward. The purpose of the probe would be to ensure the deal was within legal state-aid boundaries, as some worry the company underpaid, and was unfair for U.K. taxpayers.

Caterpillar

The construction-equipment maker revealed quarterly profit of 74 cents a share that topped expectations in the fourth quarter for 69 cents a share. The company also forecast 2016 earnings of $4 a share, higher than the $3.48 a share Wall Street expected.

In the face of slumping commodity prices and a reduction in demand for construction and mining equipment, Caterpillar said revenue fell to $11.03 billion during the quarter from $14.24 billion during the same period the year prior.  

Further, it said it plans to slash as many as 10,000 jobs over the next two years, upping restructuring costs by another $400 million in 2016. That’s added to estimates for $800 million in 2015.