MarketWatch.com - Pre-Market Indications

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Indications: U.S. futures edge up before data, EU summit

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By Polya Lesova, MarketWatch

LONDON (MarketWatch) â€" U.S. stock futures edged higher Thursday, as traders retreated to the sidelines ahead of jobs and housing data and awaited the start of a summit of European leaders.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/21b!f:dj\h11 (DJH11 11,423, +8.00, +0.07%)  gained 17 points to 11,432, and S&P 500 futures /quotes/comstock/21m!f:sp\h11 (SPH11 1,233, +0.90, +0.07%)  added 2.50 points to 1,234.60.

Why are bond yields rising?

Ben Bernanke's interview on '60 Minutes' causes a flurry of activity in the bond market by so-called bond vigilantes.

Nasdaq 100 futures /quotes/comstock/21m!f:nd\h11 (NDH11 2,206, +4.50, +0.20%) rose 5.25 points to 2,206.50. 

The economic calendar is busy Thursday, with reports on initial jobless claims and November housing starts due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.

After the market opens, at 10 a.m. Eastern, the Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey for December will be released.

The blue-chip Dow index /quotes/comstock/10w!i:dji/delayed (DJIA 11,457, -19.07, -0.17%)  dropped 0.2% Wednesday, its first decline in four days.

On the earnings front, General Mills Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!gis/quotes/nls/gis (GIS 36.38, -0.06, -0.16%)  reported a 9% rise in fiscal second-quarter profit.

Home-furnishings retailer Pier 1 Imports Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!pir/quotes/nls/pir (PIR 10.38, -0.03, -0.29%)  said its third-quarter profit dropped 46% from the year-ago period, when it recorded an income-tax benefit.

FedEx Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!fdx/quotes/nls/fdx (FDX 92.39, -0.94, -1.01%)  reported a drop in quarterly profit, hurt by costs, but the package-delivery company lifted its full-year adjusted earnings forecast, citing improving margins.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Stoxx Europe 600 index /quotes/comstock/22c!sxxp (ST:STOXX600 277.01, +0.48, +0.17%)  gained 0.1% in intraday trading, and the euro edged up 0.2% to $1.3243. See Europe Markets.

EU summit in focus

European Union leaders were gathering for a two-day summit in Brussels, where they will discuss ways to prevent and respond to future euro-zone debt crises.

“The EU summit [that] starts today could be the last significant market event of the year,” said Jane Foley, senior currency strategist at Rabobank International.

Enormous debt loads have forced Greece and Ireland to seek aid this year, and concerns remain that other euro-zone countries, such as Portugal and Spain, may eventually have to ask for assistance as well.

The Spanish government successfully sold 2.4 billion euros ($3.18 billion) worth of bonds Thursday, but yields rose sharply from a previous sale.

Moody’s Investors Service warned this week that it may downgrade Spain’s credit rating due to the nation’s high refinancing needs in 2011. Read more about Spain’s troubles.

Asian stocks finished mostly lower Thursday, with Hong Kong’s benchmark index dropping 1.3%.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services raised China’s long-term sovereign credit rating, citing the nation’s improved fiscal position and growth prospects. See story on S&P and China.

In commodity markets, oil futures slipped 33 cents to $88.29 a barrel in electronic trading on Globex.

Gold futures were little changed at $1,385.50 an ounce.

Polya Lesova is chief of MarketWatch’s London bureau.

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