MarketWatch.com - Pre-Market Indications

Friday, March 19, 2010

Indications: U.S. stock futures in tight range; Palm slumps

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By Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures on Friday pointed to a re-run of the prior aimless session, with the market focusing on individual companies like Palm after handset maker's light sales outlook.

S&P 500 futures fell eight-tenths of a point to 1,160.50 and Nasdaq 100 futures slipped three-quarters of a point to 1,941.00. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 6 points.

U.S. stocks finished an uneven Thursday with major indexes split, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 45 points to take a winning run to eight sessions, while the broader S&P 500 finished fractionally lower. A decline in weekly jobless claims and tepid inflation was countered by rumors of another discount rate hike and jitters around Greece.

Friday's session could be impacted by quadruple witching, when contracts for stock index futures, stock index options, stock options and single stock futures all expire.

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Palm /quotes/comstock/15*!palm/quotes/nls/palm (PALM 5.65, +0.28, +5.21%) dropped 15% in premarket trade after the company's weaker-than-forecast sales outlook for the fourth quarter. Palm lost $18.5 million in the third quarter. See Palm story.

Tim Long, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets, said customers "have little interest" in Palm's devices and operating system as he kept an underperform rating with a $4 price target. He also doesn't think Palm will be purchased by a rival anytime soon.

"We think an acquisition is less and less likely as consumers clearly aren't interested in the OS and generally in the handset market, larger vendors tend to wait for smaller vendors to approach zero before they think about acquisition," he said.

U.S.-listed shares of Lloyds Banking Group /quotes/comstock/13i!lyg/quotes/nls/lyg (LYG 3.41, -0.12, -3.40%) jumped 9% in premarket trade after the partly U.K. government-held lender said it would be profitable in 2010. See full story.

Best Buy /quotes/comstock/13*!bby/quotes/nls/bby (BBY 40.45, +0.34, +0.85%) rose nearly 3% on an upgrade to buy from neutral at Goldman Sachs.

Oil futures fell under $82 a barrel, while the British pound slumped on jitters on the upcoming election.

Asian markets ended mostly higher Friday, with the Nikkei 225 up 0.8% in Tokyo, and the banking news helped push the FTSE 100 up by 0.6% in London.

Steve Goldstein is MarketWatch's London bureau chief.


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