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Friday, January 15, 2010

Indications: U.S. stock futures dip before J.P. Morgan results

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By Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures slipped Friday from 15-month highs ahead of J.P. Morgan Chase earnings and a bevy of economic data.

S&P 500 futures fell 3.3 points to 1,141.90 and Nasdaq 100 futures dropped 6.75 points to 1,881.75. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 27 points.

U.S. stocks rose Thursday ahead of Intel's earnings announcement, with the banking sector largely holding its ground in the wake of President Obama's proposal for a ten-year, $90 billion tax on the sector. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 30 points, the S&P 500 gained 3 points and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 9 points.

The S&P 500 is up eight of the last nine sessions and closed at its highest level since Oct. 1, 2008.

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Microchip giant Intel /quotes/comstock/15*!intc/quotes/nls/intc (INTC 21.48, +0.52, +2.48%) late Thursday said its fourth-quarter profit jumped to $2.3 billion from $234 million in the fourth quarter, helped by demand for notebooks.

"We believe the most significant point for investors from Intel's results and guidance is the added leverage produced through management's revitalized business model. While the 61% annual gross margin would reach previous peaks, in our view, there may be upside given a better than expected corporate market," said Thomas Weisel analyst Kevin Cassidy.

Intel shares rose over 2% in Frankfurt.

Meanwhile, J.P. Morgan Chase /quotes/comstock/13*!jpm/quotes/nls/jpm (JPM 44.69, +0.44, +0.99%) is due to release fourth-quarter results, with attention on whether the banking giant will increase its dividend.

J.P. Morgan is expected to report fourth-quarter earnings of 61 cents a share, according to the average estimate of 21 analysts in a Thomson Reuters survey. In the final quarter of 2008, when the financial system had to be bailed out by the U.S. government, the bank eked out a profit of just seven cents a share.

Elsewhere, Verizon Communications /quotes/comstock/13*!vz/quotes/nls/vz (VZ 31.22, -0.65, -2.04%) is due to hold a call on its wireless unit that's also partly held by Vodafone Group /quotes/comstock/15*!vod/quotes/nls/vod (VOD 22.50, -0.13, -0.57%) .

Interactive Data /quotes/comstock/13*!idc/quotes/nls/idc (IDC 25.47, +0.08, +0.32%) said it's examining strategic alternatives. IDC is mostly held by publishing group Pearson /quotes/comstock/13i!pso/quotes/nls/pso (PSO 14.60, +0.08, +0.55%) .

CF Industries /quotes/comstock/13*!cf/quotes/nls/cf (CF 93.19, -1.73, -1.82%) gave up its pursuit of Terra Industries /quotes/comstock/13*!tra/quotes/nls/tra (TRA 32.66, +0.05, +0.15%) , which itself is the target of a bid from Agrium /quotes/comstock/13*!agu/quotes/nls/agu (AGU 65.32, -2.15, -3.19%) . Agrium said it will nominate two independent directors to CF's board and asked it to drop a poison pill.

It will be a busy day for economic releases, with December consumer prices and industrial production and January Empire State index and consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan all slated for release. The CPI and Empire State data are due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern, the industrial production figures come at 9:15 a.m. and the Michigan sentiment data is due at 10 a.m.

Oil futures fell below $79 a barrel, and gold futures lost over $10 an ounce. The euro was weak, hit in part by a rumor, quickly denied, that German Chancellor Angela Merkel would quit. Concerns over the Greek government's deficit also weighed.

Asian equities mostly were stronger, with the Nikkei 225 climbing 0.7%, and the pan-European Dow Jones Stoxx 600 added 0.5%.

Steve Goldstein is MarketWatch's London bureau chief.


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