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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Indications: Stock futures flat as bid for Potash goes hostile

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By Simon Kennedy, MarketWatch

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures were broadly flat Wednesday, with Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. remaining in focus after mining giant BHP Billiton decided to bypass the firm and go directly to its shareholders with a hostile bid.

Future on the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 5 points to 10,363 and S&P 500 futures added 0.20 points at 1,089.30.

Nasdaq 100 futures fell 1 point to 1,838.50.

U.S. stocks rallied on Tuesday, breaking a five-session losing streak after Wal-Mart Stores Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!wmt/quotes/nls/wmt (WMT 51.02, +0.61, +1.21%) beat earnings expectations and Potash Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!pot/quotes/nls/pot (POT 143.17, +31.02, +27.66%) said it had rejected a $38.6 billion takeover bid from BHP Billiton /quotes/comstock/13*!blt/quotes/nls/blt (BLT 11.11, +0.26, +2.40%) .

The Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/10w!i:dji/delayed (DJIA 10,406, +103.84, +1.01%) gained more than 100 points in the session.

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The Potash takeover approach remained in the spotlight Wednesday. BHP Billiton said it would go directly to the firm's shareholders with an unchanged offer price of $130 a share in cash, even after the Potash board described the bid as "grossly inadequate."

With no significant economic data due for release Wednesday, the dollar lost ground against both the euro and the yen.

The dollar slipped 0.4% to 85.25 Japanese yen, while the euro /quotes/comstock/21o!x:seurusd (EURUSD 1.2900, +0.0020, +0.1553%) gained 0.2% at $1.2892.

On the corporate front, shares of Analog Devices Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!adi/quotes/nls/adi (ADI 28.81, +0.45, +1.59%) may rise after the chip maker late Tuesday posted fiscal third-quarter results that beat analyst forecasts and also provided an outlook for the current quarter that was ahead of market expectations.

Among the companies due to report earnings on Wednesday is Target Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!tgt/quotes/nls/tgt (TGT 50.93, +0.21, +0.41%) , which is expected to post a second-quarter profit of 92 cents a share.

Deere & Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!de/quotes/nls/de (DE 67.23, +1.64, +2.50%) will also report earnings, with analysts expecting a fiscal third-quarter profit of $1.20 a share.

European shares lost ground as mining stocks came under pressure, with the U.K.'s benchmark FTSE 100 index /quotes/comstock/23i!i:ukx (UK:UKX 5,321, -29.29, -0.55%) falling 0.5%.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 Average rose 0.9%, while China's Shanghai Composite ended down 0.2%.

Oil prices fell, with the September crude futures slipping 70 cents to $75.07 a barrel in electronic trading on Globex.

Simon Kennedy is the City correspondent for MarketWatch in London.

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