MarketWatch.com - Pre-Market Indications

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Indications: U.S. stock futures decline after early data

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By Steve Goldstein & Kate Gibson, MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures on Thursday tallied modest losses after a mixed earnings report from the world's top retailer, Wal-Mart Stores, and mostly disappointing economic data.

S&P 500 futures fell 5.7 points to 1,093.9 while Nasdaq 100 futures declined 5.5 points to 1,806.25. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 42 points to 10,254.

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The Labor Department estimated U.S. wholesale prices rose 1.4% in January, while core prices - which include food and energy - climbed 0.3%. Both were above expectations. Read how heating oil and gasoline drove increase.

Separately, the Labor Department reported its count of those filing initial claims for state jobless benefits last week rose by 31,000 to 473,000, also more than anticipated. Read about fall in four-week average.

Later economic data includes the February Philly Fed index and January leading indicators.

Wal-Mart Stores /quotes/comstock/13*!wmt/quotes/nls/wmt (WMT 53.25, -0.81, -1.50%) reported a stronger-than-forecast quarterly profit, while the midpoint of its fiscal 2011 guidance was short of estimates. See story about retail behemoth's international growth.

Wal-Mart shares slipped 1.7% in premarket trade.

Hewlett-Packard /quotes/comstock/13*!hpq/quotes/nls/hpq (HPQ 50.63, +0.51, +1.02%) rose 0.4% however as it reported a 25% profit rise and upped its fiscal-year revenue outlook. Rival Dell /quotes/comstock/15*!dell/quotes/nls/dell (DELL 14.34, +0.23, +1.62%) reports after the close of trade. See related H-P story.

There were a slew of reports out of Europe, with Daimler /quotes/comstock/13*!dai/quotes/nls/dai (DAI 42.52, -2.54, -5.64%) skidding as the maker of Mercedes reported a loss and said it won't pay a dividend, while engineering group ABB /quotes/comstock/13*!abb/quotes/nls/abb (ABB 19.66, +1.15, +6.21%) climbed as its profit more than doubled and it increased its dividend. See Daimler story.

Gold futures slumped as the International Monetary Fund said it would sell 191.3 metric tons of gold. See IMF story.

Oil futures slipped before weekly energy inventories data.

The hard-hit euro /quotes/comstock/21o!x:seurusd (CUR_EURUSD 1.36, 0.00, -0.24%) also was weaker, putting it on track for losses in six out of the last seven sessions as concerns over European unwillingness to detail specific measures on how they could help Greece continue to pressure the shared currency.

The Bank of Japan held interest rates at 0.1% as it said the Japanese economy is picking up but not on a self-sustaining growth path.

Most Asian markets closed with modest losses, though the Nikkei 225 ended up 0.3% in Tokyo, and in Europe, the Dow Jones Stoxx 600 rose 0.4%.

U.S. stocks posted a second straight gain Wednesday, boosted by strong profit reports and economic data that reinforced investors' newfound preference for the U.S. over Europe as a venue to put their money to work. But markets did close off the day's best levels after minutes from the last Federal Open Market Committee interest-rate-setting meeting revealed a slightly more hawkish tone than economists had anticipated.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 each rose 0.4% and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.6%. For 2010, however, those indexes are down between 1% and 2%.

Steve Goldstein is MarketWatch's London bureau chief. Kate Gibson is a reporter for MarketWatch, based in New York.


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