Markets May Rise on Data Hopes


LONDON -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) and the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) are expected to open slightly higher this morning, according to futures markets, as investors return to work after the Labor Day holiday.

Markets ended last week with small gains after Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke suggested that he might support more quantitative easing. As September gets underway, investors will be looking for more clues that things might get better. Today's economic data will include August's auto sales figures, ISM manufacturing data for August, and construction spending for July. All are forecast to show a small improvement on the previous month, and analysts are expecting the ISM manufacturing index to rise from 49.8 to 50.2, raising hopes of a return to manufacturing growth (readings of more than 50 signify expansion).

Companies that might attract investors' attention today include Campbell Soup and Smithfield Foods, both of which are due to release quarterly figures before markets open. Also of interest might be Pep Boys, which is due to report after markets close tonight.

European markets
In Europe this morning, market performance has been divided by news that Moody's has downgraded the EU's credit rating outlook to negative. Germany, the U.K., and France are three of the biggest contributors to EU funding, and the main markets in these countries fell this morning. In Italy and Spain, markets have risen, helped by leaked reports that the European Central Bank could buy sovereign debt of up to three years' maturity without breaching EU laws on member-state financing.

At 7 a.m. EDT, the DAX was down 0.4%, the CAC was down 0.7%, the FTSE MIB was up 0.1%, and Spain's IBEX was 1% higher. In London, the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE) was down 0.9%. News that China's manufacturing sector has contracted for the first time in three months put pressure on commodity prices and mining shares, with steel producer Evraz leading the losers, down 2%.

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