Dow May Rise Following Bank Downgrades

LONDON -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) looks set to open a fraction higher this morning following yesterday's 251-point rout. Prior to the open, the futures market indicated the benchmark U.S. index would start the session with a modest 0.4% gain.

Indeed, with no major economic announcements due and only earnings from Carnival expected later, trading during the day could be dictated by news that Moody's Corporation has downgraded the credit status of 15 global banks.

Bank of America, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley were among those in the firing line of the ratings agency and could therefore be active at the bell. Preclose trading last night suggested the banks may start Friday with small gains.

Over in Europe, the news from Moody's did not cause too many ripples. Credit Suisse suffered the worst downgrade -- a three-notch cut -- but fell just 2% in early Swiss trading. In the U.K., Royal Bank of Scotland (ISE: RBS.L) and Barclays (ISE: BARC.L) moved less than 1% following their revised ratings.

European markets were not helped this morning by a German business confidence index that slumped to its lowest level since March 2010. Gloomy results from an Italian consumer-confidence survey also caused some concern. Most indexes throughout the eurozone slipped about 1%, although Spain enjoyed a positive session this morning, with the Madrid bourse advancing 1%.

In fact, Spanish banks had a rare day in the sun, despite the country's government releasing a stress-test study that suggested the sector could need up to 62 billion euros to survive a worst-case economic scenario. Bottom-fishers picked up Bankia, which rallied 9%, and Banco de Sabadell, which climbed 5%.

In the U.K., the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE) fell as much as 1% this morning as weaker oil and metal prices hit the index's large mining sector. Casualties included Antofagasta (ISE: ANTO.L) and BHP Billiton, each of which dived 2%.

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