MarketWatch.com - Pre-Market Indications

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Indications: U.S. futures drop after durables data; euro sinks

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By Steve Goldstein & Kate Gibson, MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures Wednesday pointed to a reversal of some of the previous session's strong gains, with a rise in orders for durable-goods not as robust as anticipated as well as renewed worries about Europe's finances.

Futures for the major stock indexes fell further after the Commerce Department reported a 0.5% hike in orders for goods made to last at least three years in February, under the 1.7% gain expected by analysts surveyed by MarketWatch. See story.

S&P 500 futures fell 4.6 points to 1,165.00 and Nasdaq 100 futures fell 6.5 points to 1,955.75. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 33 points.

Portugal Downgrade Adds To Debt Woes.

A solution to Greece's budget woes remains elusive for the EU. Now Fitch's downgrade of Portugal reminds investors, again, that Athens is not alone in the dark.

U.S. stocks rallied Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average pouring on 102 points on optimism surrounding the economic recovery. Materials and industrials led the advance that was spread through all of the 10 major industry groups.

Wednesday's calendar will also feature data on new-home sales for February, with economists polled by MarketWatch expecting new-home sales to rise to 318,000 from 309,000. T he new-home sales figures are due at 10 a.m. Eastern.

The dollar was in ascendance Wednesday, notably against the euro /quotes/comstock/21o!x:seurusd (CUR_EURUSD 1.3351, -0.0143, -1.0597%) as traders looked past better-than-forecast German business conditions data to the apparent lack of support for a Greek rescue package ahead of Thursday and Friday's gathering of European leaders.

Fitch also downgraded the rating of Portugal to AA- from AA and kept the country's outlook on negative, hurting Portuguese stocks including Portugal Telecom /quotes/comstock/13*!pt/quotes/nls/pt (PT 11.28, +0.20, +1.81%) . See Portugal story.

The pound /quotes/comstock/21o!x:sgbpusd (CUR_GBPUSD 1.4903, -0.0131, -0.8727%) also was below $1.50 as Chancellor Alistair Darling delivered the British budget, possibly for the last time.

Oil and gold futures weakened, with gold losing more than $13 an ounce and oil futures down over $1 a barrel.

Companies in the spotlight include MF Global /quotes/comstock/13*!mf/quotes/nls/mf (MF 7.32, +0.15, +2.09%) , which jumped 14.8% in pre-market trade after naming ex-New Jersey governor and Goldman Sachs chairman Jon Corzine as chief executive.

Adobe Systems /quotes/comstock/15*!adbe/quotes/nls/adbe (ADBE 35.22, +0.27, +0.77%) rose 5.4% after the design software producer's quarterly profit fall wasn't as steep as analysts had feared and as its second-quarter outlook also topped estimates.

Builder Lennar /quotes/comstock/13*!len/quotes/nls/len (LEN 17.06, +0.76, +4.66%) said it narrowed its quarterly loss as its backlog rose 34%.

ConocoPhillips /quotes/comstock/13*!cop/quotes/nls/cop (COP 52.51, +0.41, +0.79%) said it would cut its stake in Lukoil to 10% and buy back $5 billion worth of stock. After the close, eBay /quotes/comstock/15*!ebay/quotes/nls/ebay (EBAY 27.05, -0.02, -0.07%) reports quarterly results. See eBay story.

European stocks turned lower after the Portugal downgrade. In Asia, strong earnings lifted stocks in Hong Kong and China, and Nintendo surged on plans for a new game console.

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


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