MarketWatch.com - Pre-Market Indications

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Indications: U.S. stock futures cling to tight range

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By Steve Goldstein & Kate Gibson, MarketWatch

Fixes description of speculation surrounding Citi on Tuesday.

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures on Wednesday pointed to an indecisive start as investors waited for guidance, with only a smattering of merger news and economic data to focus on after the run-up in prices from one-year depths.

S&P 500 futures fell two-tenths of a point to 1,140.30 while Nasdaq 100 futures rose 1.25 points to 1,903. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 3 points to 10561.

U.S. stocks finished with slight gains Tuesday on the anniversary of the worst levels of 2009, buoyed by a report the U.S. may sell its Citigroup Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!c/quotes/nls/c (C 3.82, +0.26, +7.30%) stake and as General Electric Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!ge/quotes/nls/ge (GE 16.49, +0.22, +1.35%) predicted its 2010 earnings would be flat before growing again in 2011. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 11 points, and the Nasdaq Composite and Russell 2000 gauges finished at 2010 closing highs.

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"Money was not running from risk, but was coming out of some of the staples," said Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald, who said the market is doing very well to hold onto recent gains.

The Wall Street Journal report said the Federal Reserve is debating how to signal the next rate move, though the central bank is unlikely to change its phrasing about keeping interest rates near zero for a long time during next week's meeting.

The U.S. economic calendar is slight, with wholesale inventories for January due for release.

Data from China showed the country's surplus narrowed to $7.6 billion in February from $14.2 billion in January as imports surged. See China story.

Chinese stocks broke a three-session winning run on worries that Thursday's report on consumer prices will lead to tightening of monetary policy.

Exports from Germany, meanwhile, unexpectedly slumped over 6% in January, and industrial production fell in the U.K. during January. See Germany story.

The British pound fell sharply, losing 0.8% to $1.4884, and the dollar also rose vs. the Japanese yen and the euro.

Oil futures rose 5 cents to $81.54 a barrel while gold rose 60 cents an ounce. Weekly energy inventories data are due at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time.

Europe stocks also were broadly steady. See Europe Markets.

Facet Biotech /quotes/comstock/15*!fact/quotes/nls/fact (FACT 16.21, -0.30, -1.82%) jumped 66% to $26.95 a share on a deal to be purchased by Abbott Laboratories /quotes/comstock/13*!abt/quotes/nls/abt (ABT 54.80, +0.38, +0.70%) for $722 million, or $27 a share.

Navistar /quotes/comstock/13*!nav/quotes/nls/nav (NAV 44.25, +0.83, +1.91%) slumped 6.4% as the company reported a 93% profit fall.

The insurance sector may attract attention as Swiss Re and Munich Re both detailed their exposure to the Chile earthquake and a European winter storm, with the industry as a whole facing a tab of between $4 billion and $7 billion. See earthquake story.

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


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