MarketWatch.com - Pre-Market Indications

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Indications: U.S. stock futures edge lower after recent rally

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By Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures were a touch lower Thursday, on concern over the duration of a recent rally and on euro-zone nations' reluctance to back Greece's debt-reduction efforts.

S&P 500 futures fell 1.2 points to 1,159.80 and Nasdaq 100 futures fell a half point to 1,933.50. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1 point.

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• MarketWatch Topics: Greece • Asia Markets | Europe Markets | LatAm Markets • Canadian Markets | Israel Stocks | London • U.S.: Market Snapshot | After Hours

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The low-volume rally continued Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 47 points for its seventh straight gain and 12th rise in 14 sessions. Gains also were made for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite.

For some, the rally appears on its last legs.

Citigroup cut its stance on the global financial sector to neutral from overweight.

"Global equities typically grind higher in months 12 to 36 of a market recovery. So buy the dips and don't chase the rallies too hard," they said.

Thursday's session features data on weekly jobless claims and February consumer prices, due for release at 8:30 a.m. Eastern, and Philly Fed index for March and February leading indicators, due at 10 a.m.

Growing indications Greece may turn to the International Monetary Fund rather than fellow euro-zone nations for support helped drag the euro lower, as well as share prices for lenders including National Bank of Greece /quotes/comstock/13*!nbg/quotes/nls/nbg (NBG 4.31, -0.14, -3.15%) , which will be reporting results after the Athens close.

Standard & Poor's however upped its outlook on India to stable from negative as it affirmed that country's BBB- rating.

On the corporate news front, Pfizer /quotes/comstock/13*!pfe/quotes/nls/pfe (PFE 17.21, -0.05, -0.29%) lost out to Teva Pharmaceutical /quotes/comstock/15*!teva/quotes/nls/teva (TEVA 59.94, -0.40, -0.66%) in the auction for Ratiopharm, a German generic drug maker. Teva is paying about $5 billion.

Teva shares rose more than 2% in premarket trade. Pfizer edged up 0.3%.

Nike /quotes/comstock/13*!nke/quotes/nls/nke (NKE 70.88, +0.50, +0.71%) rose close to 4% after the sneaker maker more than doubled its third-quarter profit and said orders climbed 9%.

GlaxoSmithKline /quotes/comstock/13*!gsk/quotes/nls/gsk (GSK 37.80, +0.01, +0.03%) advanced in London after Novartis /quotes/comstock/13*!nvs/quotes/nls/nvs (NVS 54.82, -0.04, -0.07%) relinquished U.S. rights to a generic version of Glaxo's Advair.

FedEx /quotes/comstock/13*!fdx/quotes/nls/fdx (FDX 89.80, +1.17, +1.32%) dropped more than 3%. While it hiked its fourth-quarter earnings outlook, it also increased its investment in Boeing 777s and reinstated employee compensation programs that will dampen earnings growth in fiscal fourth quarter and next year.

The Nikkei 225 dropped 1% in Tokyo, while Europe equities fell marginally.

Steve Goldstein is MarketWatch's London bureau chief.


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