MarketWatch.com - Pre-Market Indications

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Indications: U.S. futures pull back before data; euro drops

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By Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures pulled back Thursday after the prior session's rally as investors got ready ahead of a heavy slate of economic releases.

S&P 500 futures fell 2.8 points to 1,203.80 and Nasdaq 100 futures fell 5 points to 2,026.50. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 19 points.

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Strong results from Intel and J.P. Morgan Chase along with a surprisingly robust gain in retail sales helped power U.S. stocks to the best one-day performance in more than five weeks, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumping by 103 points, or 0.9%. The broad-based S&P 500 rallied 1.1% and the Nasdaq Composite surged 1.6% as tech stocks moved broadly higher.

"Investors are more convinced now that the recovery is gaining momentum," said Howard Ward, portfolio manager for the Gamco Growth Fund.

One of the key drivers of profit and economic growth has been China, which on Thursday said its economy expanded at an 11.9% clip during the first quarter. See related China story.

There's another heavy day of economic releases: weekly jobless claims, February inflows, March industrial production, the April Philly Fed index and the April NAHB housing index. Fully five Federal Reserve officials will also deliver speeches.

Thursday's key earnings report comes after the close of trade, when Google /quotes/comstock/15*!goog/quotes/nls/goog (GOOG 589.00, +2.23, +0.38%) reports results. See Google preview.

On the rise, United Parcel Service /quotes/comstock/13*!ups/quotes/nls/ups (UPS 65.45, +0.57, +0.88%) shares rose 4.8% in the pre-market after the parcel delivery firm hiked its annual earnings outlook.

Meanwhile, fast-food restaurant operator Yum Brands /quotes/comstock/13*!yum/quotes/nls/yum (YUM 41.68, +0.73, +1.78%) -- a beneficiary of growing Chinese consumption -- may also be in focus after stronger-than-forecast earnings.

Several names could attract attention in the energy sector.

Peabody Energy /quotes/comstock/13*!btu/quotes/nls/btu (BTU 47.86, +0.30, +0.63%) raised its bid for Australia's Macarthur Coal to $3.8 billion. See story.

Apache Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!apa/quotes/nls/apa (APA 108.06, +1.27, +1.19%) said it's agreed to pay $2.7 billion for Mariner Energy /quotes/comstock/13*!me/quotes/nls/me (ME 18.09, +0.44, +2.49%) . Shares of Mariner were up around 40% in pre open trading.

Shares of Entergy Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!etr/quotes/nls/etr (ETR 81.38, -0.28, -0.34%) could be in focus. The power utility group cut its full-year profit to reflect potential restructuring charges.

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Meanwhile, the airline sector could be affected as U.K. air travel ground to a halt, due to volcanic ash spewing from Iceland. Other Northern European travel was disrupted as well. See related story.

In Europe, early gains dissipated, with worries about Greece back in focus as the debt-burdened country attempts to sell dollar-denominated bonds. Yields on Greek debt were again more than four percentage points higher than German debt of equivalent maturity. See Greece story.

The Greek concerns weighed on the euro /quotes/comstock/21o!x:seurusd (CUR_EURUSD 1.3555, -0.0098, -0.7178%) , which dropped sharply vs. both the U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen.

In Asia, Hong Kong shares edged higher while mainland stocks finished marginally lower after the China data. Slowing consumer price growth was cited as a reason for the Hong Kong rise.

Steve Goldstein is MarketWatch's London bureau chief.


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