Cautious Start Expected for Markets


LONDON -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) and the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) may open higher this morning, according to futures markets, which are suggesting an opening gain of around 0.15% for both indexes.

Thursday is weekly jobless claims day, and this week's figures are due at 8:30 a.m. EDT, with a rise to 370,000 expected from last week's 365,000. Also due this morning are June's trade deficit and wholesale inventories readings. The U.S. trade deficit is expected to have shrunk slightly in June, dropping from $48.7 billion to $47.5 billion, while wholesale inventories are expected to have risen by 0.3%, as they did in May.

Companies whose shares may be active in trading today include Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which posted disappointing quarterly earnings and a $1.55 billion quarterly loss after the close last night. Kohl's is expected to post results before markets open this morning, with Nordstrom and NVIDIA reporting after the close tonight.

China slowdown?
Overnight figures from China showed that inflation there has fallen to its lowest level for 30 months, with industrial production growth dropping from 9.5% in June to 9.2%. While Western economies would welcome such growth, it does highlight the risk of a slowdown in China, which could weaken stock markets worldwide.

However, U.S. markets continue to be buoyant, and CNN's Fear & Greed Index reached 73 (greed) at the close last night. Readings above 75 signify "extreme greed," and historically, peaks above 80 have preceded a correction and a period of more negative sentiment.

European markets
In Europe, markets were fairly quiet this morning, with some key indexes weakening slightly following another batch of disappointing economic data. The European Central Bank has cut its 2013 growth forecasts for the eurozone from 1% to 0.6% and has updated its forecast for this year to indicate a 0.3% contraction.

In its latest report, the ECB stressed the ongoing downside risks in the eurozone and said that it was now "crucial that Member States implement their country-specific recommendations with determination."

At 7 a.m. ET, the DAX was 0.7% lower, the CAC was down 0.3%, the FTSE MIB was down 0.9%, and Spain's IBEX was 0.8% lower. In London, the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE) was down just 0.1%, helped by the ongoing rebound of Standard Chartered, up 3.5% this morning, and by decent volumes on would-be merger partners Glencore International and Xstrata.

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