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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Indications: U.S. stock futures drift lower after retail sales

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By Barbara Kollmeyer and Kate Gibson, MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures on Tuesday struggled for direction after retail sales came in a bit better than anticipated.

The Commerce Department reported retail sales climbed 0.4% in August, slightly topping forecasts that called for a 0.3% rise.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 11 points to 10,527 while those for the S&P 500 index dipped 1.7 points to 1,114.5.

Futures for the Nasdaq 100 slipped 3.25 points to 1,913.5.

U.S. stocks closed higher on Monday, lifting all major indexes into positive territory for 2010, with the S&P 500 /quotes/comstock/21z!i1:in\x (SPX 1,126, +4.55, +0.41%) breaching its 200-day moving average for the first time in a month. Clarity on capital-reserve rules for banks and upbeat Chinese economic data drove stocks worldwide.

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The picture was more subdued on Tuesday, with European markets trading lower, while Asian equities ended mixed.

"After the recent rise of equity markets, many indexes are close to the upper bounds of the trading range of recent months, and this acts as a resistance," said Tammo Greetfeld, an equity strategist with UniCredit Bank in Munich.

"The focus will be on the direction of incoming macroeconomic data and we think that incoming data should pose headwinds to equity markets, and we do not expect any decisive breakout on the upside from the recent trading range," he said.

At 10 a.m. Eastern time, inventory data for July will be released.

But weak leading indicators over the last couple of months continue to weigh on market sentiment, said UniCredit's Greetfeld. "The declining growth momentum and the uncertainty of how much economic dynamics will weaken going further is a key burden for equity markets in general," he said.

Best Buy Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!bby/quotes/nls/bby (BBY 37.15, +2.50, +7.22%) shares gained 8.9% in premarket trade after the largest U.S. electronics retailer hiked its outlook for the year.

Kroger Co. shares also rose, up 3.1%, after the grocer reported quarterly earnings that topped expectations.

U.S.-listed shares of Philips Electronics /quotes/comstock/13*!phg/quotes/nls/phg (PHG 30.05, -0.86, -2.78%) /quotes/comstock/24s!e:phia (NL:PHIA 23.15, -0.93, -3.86%) fell in thin premarket trade, as the company's five-year-growth plan disappointed investors.

Also in premarket trade, shares of Nokia Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!nok/quotes/nls/nok (NOK 9.99, -0.15, -1.43%) slipped 1.5% after the mobile-phone giant unveiled new Symbian smartphones at its annual showcase in London. But the news was overshadowed by Nokia's announcement that its powerful chairman, Jorma Ollila, will step down in 2012.

Nokia's newly appointed chief executive didn't give a presentation at the event, leaving many questions on the strategic direction of the firm unanswered. See more on Nokia.

European markets held flat, partially pinned down by a weaker-than-expected survey of German economic sentiment. The ZEW indicator fell sharply in September to -4.3 from 14 in August, compared to expectations for a drop to 9.

The euro /quotes/comstock/21o!x:seurusd (EURUSD 1.3012, +0.0136, +1.0562%) slipped versus the dollar in the wake of the ZEW survey, last changing hands at $1.2853.

In the currency markets, the Japanese yen hit a fresh 15-year high against the greenback, as Prime Minister Naoto Kan survived a challenge to his leadership of the ruling party, and the government.

The dollar later recovered some ground to trade down 0.5% to ¥83.22.

December gold futures rallied $13.30 to $1,260.40 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Barbara Kollmeyer is an editor for MarketWatch in Madrid. Kate Gibson is a reporter for MarketWatch, based in New York.

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