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US futures mixed as companies post strong results
US futures mixed as US earnings strengthen while European debt worries persist
By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) ' U.S. stock market futures wobbled Tuesday as solid corporate earnings results could not completely offset concerns about the U.S. economy and continued worries over Europe.

Among the major companies reporting results before the market opened, 3M, Hershey and AT&T posted better than expected profits. U.S. Steel reported a wider loss than expected, but revenue figures topped Wall Street estimates.

Apple Inc. tops the list of those reporting after the market closes.

Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 0.07 percent to 12,880, losing steam from earlier gains. Standard & Poor's 500 futures turned down 0.07 percent, to 1,361.70. Nasdaq 100 futures slid 0.31 percent to 2.642.

Traders are also keeping their eyes on several pieces of economic data.

The S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices dropped for the sixth straight month in February, with new lows reached in nine major metropolitan areas. Prices fell in 15 of the 20 cities compared with the same month in 2011. That indicates that the housing market remains far from healthy, despite the best winter for sales in five years.

Also on tap, the private research group The Conference Board will release its index of consumer confidence at 10 a.m. Eastern. Forecasters expect the measure will edge down slightly in April from March. The index has been hovering around 70, well below the 90 considered healthy, but the figure has risen sharply since October, when it hit 40.

At the same time, the Commerce Department will release data on new home sales for March. Economists expect a modest increase in this key sector, but the market's recovery remains weighed by the glut of foreclosures and other homes offered at reduced prices.

In Europe, market gains could not trump worries about the continuing debt crisis. Rising borrowing costs were evident in bond auctions for Spain and Italy Tuesday. Both countries are struggling to convince markets that they can pay their debts despite shrinking economies.

The major indicators in Europe struggled to hold on to modest gains. Germany's DAX rose 0.08 percent at 6,528.45. The CAC40 in France added 0.83 percent to 3,124.40. London's FTSE 100 slipped, giving up 1.85 percent at 5,772.

In Asia, several key markets rallied to close higher despite earlier slumps. Investors there are looking to a meeting of U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the economy and monetary policy. Traders are hoping there might be some show of support for a third round of bond purchases, dubbed quantitative easing III or QE3, to support the U.S. economy.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index closed down 0.8 percent at 9,468.04 and South Korea's Kospi lost 0.5 percent to 1,963.42. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.3 percent at 20,677.16 and benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia also finished higher.

In mainland China, the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index was virtually unchanged at 2,388.83

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