Wall Street gets back to its cautious ways, as the Greek bailout hangs in balance and oil prices remain elevated. The G20 finance ministers and central bank governors, who met over the weekend, called for further enhancement of Eurozone's bailout fund before the rest of the G20 nations can consider increasing their contribution to the International Monetary Fund's resources. Earlier in the day, home improvement retailer Lowe's (LOW) reported solid results and issued healthy guidance. A housing report to be released shortly after the markets open may also dictate market direction of the session.
As of 6:30 am ET, the Dow futures are receding 51 points, the S&P 500 futures are moving down 6.40 points and the Nasdaq 100 futures are slipping 12 points.
U.S. stocks extended their gains in the week ended February 24th, with commodity stocks lending solid support to the markets. The markets relished some positive data points from both sides of the Atlantic despite the release of mixed domestic earnings and lingering uncertainty about a Greek bailout.
Main Street will once again be bustling with activity in the unfolding week after last week's relative calm. Some of the market moving first tier economic reports that the markets could closely track are the National Association of Realtors' pending home sales index for January, the Commerce Department's durable goods orders report for January, the ISM-Chicago's business barometer for February, the Institute for Supply Management's national manufacturing survey for February, the weekly jobless claims report and the Conference Board's consumer confidence index for February
Traders may also focus on the Commerce Department's personal income and outlays report for January, the auto sales for February, the Federal Reserve's Beige Book and several Fed speeches scheduled for the week. The S&P Case-Shiller home price index for December, the preliminary fourth quarter GDP report and two regional manufacturing surveys round up the economic events of the week.
The National Association of Realtors is due to release its pending home sales index for January at 10 am ET. Economists estimate a 1.5 percent increase in the index.
The results of a regional manufacturing survey carried out by the Dallas Federal Reserve are due to be released at 10:30 am ET. The business activity index based on the survey is expected to edge down to 15 in February from 15.3 in January.
In corporate new, El Paso (EP) announced an agreement to sell its exploration and production business EP Energy Corp. for about $7.15 billion to a consortium led by Apollo Global Management.
Transocean (RIG) reported fourth quarter loss of $18.62 per share, including items that impacted results by $18.80 per share. Operating revenues rose to $2.42 billion from the year-ago's $2.13 billion. Analysts' estimates, which typically exclude one-time items, called for earnings of 21 cents per share on revenues of $2.32 billion.
Lowe's (LOW) reported fourth quarter earnings of 26 cents per share on revenues of $11.63 billion. The results exceeded estimates. The company updated its 2012 earnings guidance, expecting earnings of $1.75-$1.85 per share on 1-2 percent sales growth.
Prominent among the companies due to release their results after the markets close include Career Education (CECO), Cray (CRAY), Human Genome (HGSI), Sina (SINA), Vornado Realty (VNO), priceline.com (PCLN) and URS (URS).
The major Asian markets ended mostly lower, with India's Sensex leading the declines with a 2.67 percent retreat. South Korea's Kospi ended down 1.42 percent compared to a 1.05 percent retreat by the Singaporean Straits Times Index.
The fluid eurozone debt situation and higher oil prices exerted downward pressure on the markets.
After remaining moderately above the unchanged line for much of the session, Japan's Nikkei 225 average retreated in late trading, ending down 13.45 points or 0.14 percent. Macroeconomic concerns offset the optimism stemming from a weaker yen, which has supported export stocks in recent sessions.
Australia's All Ordinaries closed down 34.50 points or 0.79 percent at 4,355 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended at 21,218, down 189 points or 0.88 percent.
The European averages are all retreating, with the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index slipping over 1 percent each, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is down close to 0.75 percent.
In corporate news, BP (BP) is reportedly discussing a $14 billion settlement agreement with the plaintiffs in the lawsuit over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. HSBC Holdings reported it is on track to meet its profitability targets for next fiscal year. The company's net income climbed to $16.8 billion in 2011 from $13.2 billion in the year-ago period.
Oil prices are down about $1.40-a-barrel, although still remaining elevated at the low-$108-a-barrel level. Gold futures are also pulling back. Risk currencies are all taking a beating, while the dollar is seeing some strength.
by RTT Staff Writer
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