MarketWatch.com - Pre-Market Indications

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Indications: U.S. futures wobble, with earnings in focus

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By Kate Gibson and Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) â€" U.S. stock futures pointed Wednesday to a mild retreat from the prior session’s gains after a private report showed that U.S. companies added more employees than expected last month.

Stock-index futures wobbled after Automatic Data Processing released data showing that private-sector employment rose by 187,000 in January after a revised 247,000 gain in December, with the latter number lower than first estimated.

“The specifics of the report aside, the general story of an improving economy, growing profits and increasing employment is bolstered further by today’s report,” said Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak & Co.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/21b!f:dj\h11 (DJH11 12,000, +27.00, +0.23%)  fell 9 points to 11,964, while those for the S&P 500 index /quotes/comstock/21m!f:sp\h11 (SPH11 1,302, -1.00, -0.08%)  were off 2 points at 1,300.7.

Futures for the Nasdaq 100 index /quotes/comstock/21m!f:nd\h11 (NDH11 2,324, +1.50, +0.06%)  fell 5.5 points to 2,317.

Dow industrials end above 12,000

Stocks rally sharply following favorable manufacturing data out Tuesday and another batch of positive earnings. Plus, oil slides as the Egypt risk premium gets unwound.

On Tuesday, the Dow /quotes/comstock/10w!i:dji/delayed (DJIA 12,053, +13.20, +0.11%)  rallied 148.23 points, or 1.3%, to 12,040.16, posting its first close above the key 12,000 level since June 19, 2008, buoyed by strong U.S. manufacturing data and upbeat financial results.

Shares of Electronic Arts Inc. /quotes/comstock/15*!erts/quotes/nls/erts (ERTS 18.00, +2.38, +15.24%)  rose in premarket trading. Late Tuesday, the videogame publisher reported a wider third-quarter loss as sales fell, but it announced a better-than-expected forecast for the current quarter as well as a share-buyback plan worth $600 million.

Shares of Mattel Inc. /quotes/comstock/15*!mat (MAT 24.51, +0.36, +1.47%)  could be in focus after the toy maker posted fourth-quarter earnings of 89 cents a share and declared a dividend. A survey by FactSet Research found analysts calling for the company to have earned 86 cents a share.

Whirlpool Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!whr (WHR 83.62, -1.80, -2.11%)  reported fourth-quarter earnings of $2.19 a share against $1.24 a share in the year-ago period. On an adjusted basis, the company said it would have earned $2.11, but the FactSet-compiled consensus pegged the company to earn $2.26 a share.

Media group Time Warner Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!twx (TWX 35.00, +2.69, +8.31%)  reported fourth-quarter earnings of 68 cents a share, up from 53 cents a share in the year-ago period, on revenue of $3.35 billion versus $2.94 billion.

After the market closes, media and entertainment giant News Corp. /quotes/comstock/15*!nws (NWS 17.54, +0.45, +2.63%) /quotes/comstock/15*!nwsa (NWSA 15.86, +0.27, +1.70%) , which owns the publisher of this report, is due to report financial results, as is Visa Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!v (V 71.72, +1.02, +1.44%) .

In Europe, stocks turned mixed, but London pushed ahead as miners gained. Shares of Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA SA /quotes/comstock/13*!bbva/quotes/nls/bbva (BBVA 12.65, -0.30, -2.32%)   /quotes/comstock/06x!e:bbva (ES:BBVA 9.29, -0.01, -0.14%)  fell 0.5% in Madrid, in the wake of fourth-quarter results.

Shares of Roche Holding AG /quotes/comstock/06p!rog (CH:ROG 144.00, -0.50, -0.35%)  fell in Swiss trading after the drugmaker said restructuring charges and slowing U.S. and European sales hit 2010 earnings.

In commodities trading, crude-oil futures for March delivery /quotes/comstock/21n!f:cl\h11 (CLH11 91.07, +0.30, +0.33%)  rose 44 cents to $91.20 a barrel in electronic trading on Globex. Investors kept an eye on the situation in Egypt, where President Hosni Mubarak said he would not run in an upcoming presidential election after his term expires later this year.

Gold futures for April delivery /quotes/comstock/21e!f:gc\j11 (GCJ11 1,335, -5.50, -0.41%)  fell 40 cents to $1,339.2 an ounce.

Kate Gibson is a reporter for MarketWatch, based in New York. Barbara Kollmeyer is an editor for MarketWatch in Madrid.

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