MarketWatch.com - Pre-Market Indications

Monday, January 31, 2011

Indications: U.S. futures edge up, with Egypt, results in focus

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By Polya Lesova, MarketWatch

LONDON (MarketWatch) â€" U.S. futures edged higher Monday, as investors weighed concerns over growing unrest in Egypt against optimism over relatively robust corporate earnings thus far.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/21b!f:dj\h11 (DJH11 11,775, 0.00, 0.00%)  rose 1 point to 11,776 and S&P 500 futures /quotes/comstock/21m!f:sp\h11 (SPH11 1,274, +2.90, +0.23%)  gained 2.40 points to 1,273.90.

Nasdaq 100 futures /quotes/comstock/21m!f:nd\h11 (NDH11 2,272, +4.00, +0.18%)  advanced 4.50 points to 2,272.50.

The blue-chip Dow index /quotes/comstock/10w!i:dji/delayed (DJIA 11,824, -166.13, -1.39%)  slumped 166.13 points, or 1.4%, on Friday, posting its biggest decline since November after investors were spooked by the unrest in Egypt.

Unrest in Egypt hits global financial markets

Anti-government protests in Egypt have affected world financial markets, with US stocks suffering the biggest one-day loss in six months. Video courtesy of Fox News

Pressure on President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for decades, escalated over the weekend as protests against his rule continued to rock the streets of Cairo.

The situation in Egypt is “unsettling for sentiment generally,” said Mike Lenhoff, chief strategist at Brewin Dolphin in London.

“Who knows where it’s going to end and what contagion may result from it,” he said. “It’s clearly forcing up commodity prices and that is not great news for inflation.”

However, “the downside [for equity markets] is fairly limited since we’ve had good economic news and good earnings results,” Lenhoff said.

Exxon earnings due

U.S. investors are awaiting earnings reports from several companies, including oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!xom/quotes/nls/xom (XOM 78.99, -0.89, -1.11%)  and newspaper publisher Gannett Co. Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!gci/quotes/nls/gci (GCI 15.19, +0.16, +1.06%)  

Exxon is expected to report fourth-quarter earnings of $1.62 a share, according to a survey of analysts by FactSet Research.

On the economic front, data on personal income for December are due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, to be followed by the Chicago PMI for January at 9:45 a.m. Eastern.

In the commodity markets, oil futures rose 13 cents to $89.47 a barrel in electronic trading on Globex on concerns that crude supplies may be disrupted from the possible closure of the Suez Canal.

“While there is currently no evidence of imminent closure and Egyptian officials have publicly assured that traffic is running as normal, the proximity of the protests to the canal itself has raised market concerns about security,” said Ann Wyman, an analyst at Nomura, in a report.

“Moreover, the imposition of curfews, if sustained, could hamper the canal’s operations and lead to delays,” she wrote.

Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Egypt’s government bond ratings to Ba2 from Ba1, citing the sharp increase in political risk.

The Egyptian stock exchange, meanwhile, remained closed for a second day after equities plunged last week.

Equity markets in Asia and Europe posted losses. In Japan, the Nikkei Stock Average dropped 1.2% and the Stoxx Europe 600 index /quotes/comstock/22c!sxxp (ST:STOXX600 279.09, -1.36, -0.48%)  declined 0.5% in intraday trading.

The dollar index /quotes/comstock/11j!i:dxy0 (DXY 78.05, -0.08, -0.10%) , which tracks the performance of the greenback against a basket of other major currencies, fell 0.2% to 78.010.

The euro gained 0.4% to $1.3656.

Polya Lesova is chief of MarketWatch’s London bureau.

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