MarketWatch.com - Pre-Market Indications

Friday, December 31, 2010

Indications: U.S. futures drift lower; Imax, Borders in focus

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By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch

MADRID (MarketWatch) â€" U.S. stock futures were pointing to a slightly weaker start for Wall Street on Friday, with volumes looking to be low as many traders won’t be at their desks for the last session of the year.

Fund firms fight to cut ETF fees

In a “classic price war,” top providers of exchange-traded funds and index funds are battling to cut management expenses to the bone, according to Matt Hougan of researcher IndexUniverse.com.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 16 points to 11,506, while those for the S&P 500 fell 1.9 points to 1,253.70. Futures on the Nasdaq 100 index fell 1.75 points to 2,222.75.

Major U.S. indexes finished slightly lower Thursday, with investors locking in gains after a recent run to two-year highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/10w!i:dji/delayed (DJIA 11,570, -15.67, -0.14%)  fell 15.67 points, or 0.1%, to end at 11,569.7, a day after it had logged its best close since August 28, 2008.

Those Thursday declines came in the face of better-than-expected jobless claims, a strong reading on a key barometer of Chicago-area business, and pending sales of existing homes.

No key data are on tap Friday, which will be a full session for Wall Street, despite the fact that many traders had already abandoned their desks to get a head start on the New Year’s holiday.

/quotes/comstock/15*!imax/quotes/nls/imax IMAX 26.86, +1.25, +4.88%

Ahead of the open, shares of Imax Corp. /quotes/comstock/15*!imax/quotes/nls/imax (IMAX 26.86, +1.25, +4.88%)  rose 7% in preopen continuing to gain after the Daily Mail newspaper in the U.K. said the movie-screen operator could be an acquisition target for Sony Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!sne/quotes/nls/sne (SNE 35.57, -0.30, -0.84%) . The newspaper said Sony could pay $40 a share, citing industry sources who reportedly indicated Walt Disney Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!dis/quotes/nls/dis (DIS 37.48, -0.12, -0.32%)  might also be interested.

Shares of Borders Group Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!bgp/quotes/nls/bgp (BGP 1.16, -0.02, -1.69%)  could be active. Media reports quoted the company as saying Thursday that it could delay payments to some publishers, as part of an effort to refinance debt. The retailer also said there were no guarantees those efforts would be successful.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!apc/quotes/nls/apc (APC 75.59, +4.86, +6.87%) , whose shares got a boost late Thursday after gains in the regular session on speculation the oil- and gas-exploration group is a takeover target. The U.K. Daily Mail reported that mining group BHP Billiton Ltd. /quotes/comstock/13*!bhp/quotes/nls/bhp (BHP 92.90, +0.10, +0.11%)   /quotes/comstock/22x!e:bhp (AU:BHP 45.25, -0.60, -1.31%)  may be readying a $90-a-share offer.

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In overseas markets, three of Asia’s top five benchmarks finished 2010 with losses, including China’s Shanghai Composite, losing 14.3% for the year over worries about monetary-policy tightening in the country. The Nikkei and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index fell 3% and 2.6%, respectively.

In Europe, German markets were shut, finishing the year up by 16%. Germany was one of the best-performing stock markets in the region in a year marred by the Continent’s sovereign-debt crisis.

Other European markets will close around midday, including London’s. Those markets were in the red.

The dollar was off 0.6% against the euro at $1.3386, and also slightly weaker against the yen, changing hands at ¥81.26.

Strong gains for precious and base metals continued Friday, with investor desire to diversify into the sector clearly not abating.

February gold futures rose $6.30 to $1,412.20 an ounce, while copper rose 1.29% to $4.149 a pound after hitting another record Thursday.

Silver futures for February delivery added another 21 cents to $30.72 an ounce after flirting with 30-year highs in the prior session.

Barbara Kollmeyer is an editor for MarketWatch in Madrid.

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