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EARNINGS PREVIEW: U.S. Exchanges Grapple With Slower Markets, Europe Pressure

By Saabira Chaudhuri and Jacob Bunge TAKING THE PULSE: Financial markets in the second quarter saw investors continue to head for the sidelines of stock and derivatives markets in the U.S. and Europe, offering little relief for exchanges that depend largely on trading fees for revenue. Investments in technology and transaction services are likely to be particularly in the spotlight following Facebook Inc.'s (FB) botched initial public offering, handled by Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. (NDAQ). COMPANIES TO WATCH: Nasdaq -- Reports July 25 Wall Street Expectations: Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters predict earnings of 60 cents a share on $410 million in revenue. A year earlier, per-share profit was 51 cents, or 62 cents excluding items like merger-related charges, on $416 million in revenue. Key Issues: The tech-heavy exchange operator heads into earnings season under the shadow of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation around the technology problems that plagued Facebook's IPO. Nasdaq's costs could rise if it has to upgrade its trading systems, and big customers remain angry after associated trading losses. Investors will be looking for more details on cost-cutting measures in addition to technology upgrades. CME Group Inc. (CME) -- Reports July 26 Wall Street Expectations: Analysts expect earnings of $4.12 a share on revenue of $796 million. Year-earlier earnings were $4.38 a share on $838.3 million in revenue. Key Issues: Investors will be listening closely to new Chief Executive Phupinder Gill, who will preside over his first quarterly report. Investor confidence is still key following the twin collapses of MF Global Holdings Ltd. (MFGLQ) and Peregrine Financial Group Inc., leaving holes in futures traders' accounts. The exchange also faces competition from ICE, which has launched an all-electronic version of CME's benchmark grain futures, pushing CME to lengthen its trading session. More pressing, trading volumes have declined for three quarters, with contracts linked to interest rates under particular pressure this spring. IntercontinentalExchange Inc. (ICE) -- Reports Aug. 1 Wall Street Expectations: Analysts expect earnings of $1.92 a share on revenue of $351 million. Year-earlier profit was $1.64, or $1.69 stripping out acquisition-related costs, on $325.2 million in revenue. Key Issues: Will acquisitive ICE keep fishing for deals, or cut bait? Analysts think ICE could return hundreds of millions of dollars in excess cash to investors after it lost a bidding battle to acquire the London Metal Exchange in June. Investors will also watch for progress on growth initiatives, including a suite of grain futures, Brazilian power and fixed-income markets and swap trading services. CBOE Holdings Inc. (CBOE) -- Reports Aug. 2 Wall Street Expectations: Analysts expect earnings of 41 cents a share on $128 million in revenue. Year-earlier per-share profit was 36 cents on $120.3 million in revenue. Key Issues: CBOE's Volatility Index is surging, driving record trade in the exchange's range of products linked to the market's fear gauge. Bread-and-butter options trade has slowed since the first quarter but remains solidly higher than the year-ago period, and CBOE's proprietary contracts linked to big stock indexes are seen boosting profits. Meanwhile, CBOE has warned that it could see a fine should the SEC impose punishments following a review of its compliance functions, which drove a shake-up in the exchange's top ranks. NYSE Euronext (NYX) -- Reports Aug. 3 Wall Street Expectations: Analysts most recently forecast earnings of 50 cents a share on $609 million in revenue. Year-ago per-share profit was 59 cents, or 61 cents excluding merger-related costs, on $661 million in revenue. Key Issues: The Big Board parent continues to face the question "what's next?" after its failed merger with Deutsche Boerse AG (DB1.XE, DBOEF). NYSE has announced plans to streamline operations and re-evaluate spending on new projects. Analysts have tempered expectations for the company's technology division after a slowdown hit the business. A recent win in Washington: This month regulators approved a proposal that will provide retail investors more competitive prices on NYSE markets, enabling the exchange to compete more evenly with big banks and trading firms that get the first crack at orders from online brokerage firms. (The Thomson Reuters financial estimates and year-earlier figures may not be comparable due to one-time items and other adjustments.) Write to Saabira Chaudhuri at and Jacob Bunge at Subscribe to WSJ:

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