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Wall Street Precariously Poised


Sentiment on Wall Street is likely to be fragile, as reflected by the index futures, which point to a mixed opening on Friday. With not much in terms of catalysts, traders are forced to wait on the new home sales report to give them direction. The resiliency with which the major averages have preserved much of their recent gains suggests that the markets could weather any potential correction.

Earnings from blue chips such as Nike (NKE) and Accenture (CAN) have been encouraging. It would be interesting to note if commodities can sustain their Asian session gains. Risky currencies are trading firm.

As of 6:15 am ET, the Dow futures are down 3 points, while the S&P 500 futures are adding 0.80 points and the Nasdaq 100 futures are moving up 5.25 points.

U.S. stocks declined on Thursday, as global economic fears offset the optimism generation by continued strength suggested by domestic data.

On the economic front, the Commerce Department is due to release its new home sales report for February at 10 am ET. The consensus estimate calls for new homes sales of 325,000 after new home sales declined unexpectedly to a 321,000 unit-rate in the previous month.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will deliver brief opening remarks at the Fed Conference on Central Banking "Before, During, and After the Crisis" at 1:45 pm ET.

Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Dennis Lockhart is due to speak to students at Georgetown University in Washington on his career and the Fed at 2:30 pm ET. He will also take questions from the audience. Additionally, St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard is scheduled to speak to the 15th Asian Investment Conference in Hong Kong at 9 pm ET.

In corporate news, Nike reported third quarter earnings of $1.20 per share, up 11 percent year-over-year. Revenues rose 15 percent to $5.8 billion. The results came in ahead of estimates. The company also said its worldwide future orders for the period from March through July 2012 were 15 percent higher from the year-ago period.

Cost Plus (CPWM) reported better than expected fourth quarter results. Additionally, the company issued robust first quarter and full year guidance.

Accenture reported better than expected second quarter results and issued upbeat guidance for the third quarter and full year.

Micron Technology (MU) reported a second quarter loss of 23 cents per share compared to a profit of 7 cents per share last year, while revenues fell to $2.1 billion. The loss was wider than expected, while revenues exceeded estimates.

AIG (AIG) announced that it has made a final $1.5 billion payment to the U.S. Treasury Department to retire the Treasury's interest in AIA. The repayment would mean that the Treasury's outstanding assistance is reduced by more than 75 percent.

The major Asian markets ended mixed, as economic worries kept sentiment subdued. The strengthening of the yen sent Japanese stocks lower, while lower resource prices weighed on the Australian market.

Japan's Nikkei 225 average opened notably lower and moved sideways for the rest of the session. The index closed down 115.61 points or 1.14 percent.

Australia's All Ordinaries saw marked weakness in early trading but it clawed back its way up before closing down merely 4.20 points or 0.10 percent at 4,361. Additionally, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended down 232.76 points or 1.11 percent at 20,669.

China's Shanghai Composite ended down over 1 percent, while India's Sensex ended up over 1 percent and the Indonesia's Jakarta Composite Index, Malaysia's KLSE Composite Index, South Korea's Kospi and Taiwan's Weighted Average all advanced moderately.

The European averages are languishing in the red amid a lack of any major catalysts in a sign that they may extend their 4-day losing streak.

In economic news, a survey by French statistical agency INSEE showed that French business confidence improved markedly in March. The headline index rose to 96 in March from 93 in February.

Meanwhile, U.K. consumer confidence deteriorated in February, according to results of a survey by Nationwide. The consumer confidence index fell 3 points to 44.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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