MarketWatch.com - Pre-Market Indications

Monday, December 27, 2010

Indications: U.S. futures point to losses in wake of China hike

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By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) â€" U.S. stock futures pointed to opening Monday losses for Wall Street as investors react to China’s interest-rate hike during the holiday weekend.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/21b!f:dj\h11 (DJH11 11,482, -40.00, -0.35%)   fell 45 points, or 0.4%, to 11,477 and those for the S&P 500 index /quotes/comstock/21m!f:sp\h11 (SPH11 1,247, -5.70, -0.45%)   dropped 5.5 points, or 0.4%, to 1,247.5. Futures for the Nasdaq 100 index /quotes/comstock/21m!f:nd\h11 (NDH11 2,224, -6.25, -0.28%)  sank 6.75 points, or 0.3%, to 2,222.92.

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Wall Street will reopen after closing Friday, the day before Christmas.

Weaker European and Asia markets were setting the tone after China hiked its key lending and deposit rates by a quarter of a percentage point Saturday. Analysts said the move could mean Beijing is stepping up its effort to slow the economy. See China’s hike signals no more soft touch

In Europe, stocks fell, with automobile makers leading the decliners. China is one of the world’s biggest car markets.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/10w!i:dji/delayed (DJIA 11,573, +14.00, +0.12%)  managed to close at a two-year Thursday, rising 14 points to 11,573.49, though the Nasdaq Composite /quotes/comstock/10y!i:comp (COMP 2,666, 0.00, 0.00%)  and the S&P 500 /quotes/comstock/21z!i1:in\x (SPX 1,257, -2.07, -0.16%)  fell. Markets were positive on the week, with the Dow industrials up 0.7%, the S&P 500 up 1% and the Nasdaq up 0.9%.

There is no major economic or corporate news on the calendar for Monday, though retailers could be in focus as heavy snowstorms battered the East Coast, making it difficult for consumers to get out on one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Airlines such as US Airways Group Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!lcc/quotes/nls/lcc (LCC 9.91, -0.41, -3.97%) and United Continental Holdings /quotes/comstock/13*!ual/quotes/nls/ual (UAL 23.41, -1.00, -4.10%)  could also be in the spotlight as travel was severely disrupted due to the storms that paralyzed several key airports in the region.

Ford Motor Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!f/quotes/nls/f (F 16.78, -0.21, -1.24%)  on Monday said that it plans to introduce start-stop technology on many cars in 2012 and that the technology will eventually be unveiled across all global markets. According to media reports, Ford is due to reveal the new fuel-saving measure in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Shares of Cal-Maine Foods Inc. /quotes/comstock/15*!calm/quotes/nls/calm (CALM 33.82, +0.02, +0.06%)  could be in focus after the egg producer said second-quarter net income fell 5.6% on 2.3% higher sales. While specialty-egg sales have continued to grow, feed costs hurt profits in the period and “remained a concern for fiscal 2011,” said Dolph Baker, Cal-Maine’s chief executive.

In Europe, automotive shares such as Volkswagen AG fell more than 5%, while BMW and and Daimler AG fell by at least 4%, dragging the German and overall Stoxx Europe 600 index lower, in the wake of that China hike. Peugeot SA fell 2.5% in Paris.

Volume was lacking in Europe as well, with London markets closed until Wednesday for the Christmas holiday.

In Asia, China’s Shanghai Composite Index finished nearly 2% lower, led by financial stocks such as China Construction Bank. One analyst said the rate hikes in China and tightening moves in recent weeks had triggered worries about the lending capacity of Chinese banks.

In commodities, gold futures for February delivery rose $1.50 to $1,382 an ounce, while February-dated crude fell 64 cents to $90.88 a barrel.

The dollar was mostly weaker, off 0.3% against the euro at $1.3137.

Barbara Kollmeyer is an editor for MarketWatch in Madrid.

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