MarketWatch.com - Pre-Market Indications

Friday, December 17, 2010

Indications: Futures slip with Europe events in focus

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By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch

MADRID (MarketWatch) â€" U.S. stock futures slipped on Friday, with a multinotch downgrade of Ireland’s debt providing a focus as investors also awaited data on leading indicators.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/21b!f:dj\h11 (DJH11 11,430, -1.00, -0.01%)  dropped 14 points to 11,417 and S&P 500 futures /quotes/comstock/21m!f:sp\h11 (SPH11 1,238, -0.50, -0.04%)  declined 2.60 points to 1,235.90.

Futures for the Nasdaq 100 /quotes/comstock/21m!f:nd\h11 (NDH11 2,218, -1.25, -0.06%)  fell 3.75 points to 2,215.50.

Asia's week ahead

Japan next week is facing a full slate of economic news. MarketWatch's Phani Kumar reports.

As the last full trading week of the year winds down, strategists said volumes were thinning out.

“There’s no incentive to buying stocks right now,” said Philip Shaw, chief economist at Investec Securities. “A lot of money has been taken off the table. It’s more a matter of getting the positions you want for the new year.”

“There’s certainly an end-of-year feel in markets at the moment and it’s really only the odd one or two events that are generating any sort of market movements,” he added. “European debt is one of those.”

Markets in Europe gave way to selling toward midday as Moody’s Investors Service cut Ireland’s credit rating by five notches to Baa1 from Aa2.

While the move was mostly expected, Shaw noted it still had an impact, with credit spreads for peripheral debt widening out.

“The impact could be felt in the opening hours of U.S. trading,” he said.

U.S. stocks finished higher on Thursday, lifted by upbeat economic reports and a cheerier forecast from FedEx Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!fdx/quotes/nls/fdx (FDX 94.22, +1.83, +1.98%) .

The Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/10w!i:dji/delayed (DJIA 11,499, +41.78, +0.36%)  rose 41.78 points, or 0.4%, to 11,499.25.

In Washington, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed a two-year extension of tax cuts dating back to the presidency of George W. Bush just before midnight on Thursday, following weeks of intense debate. The bill has already passed a Senate vote. Analysts said this event largely went as expected and was unlikely to have much market impact. Read about the two-year extension of Bush-era tax cuts.

Data on tap for Friday include leading economic indicators for November due at 10 a.m. Eastern time.

On the corporate front, shares of AstraZenca PLC /quotes/comstock/13*!azn/quotes/nls/azn (AZN 49.23, -0.05, -0.10%) fell nearly 6% in preopening trade after the firm was dealt a blow by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over its Brilinta blood-thinning drug.

The FDA has asked for additional analysis related to a study on the drug, a move which may hold back final approval of the drug by at least six months.

Oracle Corp. /quotes/comstock/15*!orcl/quotes/nls/orcl (ORCL 30.27, -0.22, -0.72%)  shares rose 4% in premarket trade after the software group beat analysts’ expectations with its second-quarter report late Thursday. See Oracle’s earnings report.

Shares of Research in Motion Ltd. /quotes/comstock/15*!rimm/quotes/nls/rimm (RIMM 59.24, +0.06, +0.10%)  gained 2% in premarket trade after the group beat forecasts for third fiscal-quarter earnings, aided by buoyant sales for its BlackBerry smartphones. See RIM’s report.

Also reporting late the prior session, Take-Two Interactive Software /quotes/comstock/15*!ttwo/quotes/nls/ttwo (TTWO 11.94, -0.06, -0.50%)  said it swung to a profit for the quarter ended Oct. 31, helped by upbeat sales of a key basketball game and other video games.

European stocks shifted mostly weaker, led by heavy losses for AstraZeneca, while banks were also weak, taking no inspiration from the German Ifo Institute’s business-climate gauge, which ended 2010 at a record high. See story on German Ifo index.

Markets will continue to watch a summit in the EU, which wraps up on Friday. A day earlier, leaders in Brussels said they would amend an EU treaty to allow for the creation of a permanent rescue fund for countries to counter sovereign-debt issues.

In Asia, Taiwanese stocks hit a 31-month high on a continuation of fund flows, while Chinese stocks struggled amid still-present concerns of an official tightening of interest rates. See Asia Markets.

Gold for February delivery was flat at $1,371 an ounce, while crude-oil futures for January delivery slipped 61 cents to $87.09 a barrel.

Barbara Kollmeyer is an editor for MarketWatch in Madrid.

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