Cautious Start Expected for Markets

LONDON -- Markets look likely to open almost unchanged this morning, with futures markets at 7 a.m. EDT predicting a 0.01% opening rise for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) and a 0.04% fall for the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) .

Investors are likely to monitor developments at the latest EU summit closely, but as happened yesterday, domestic economic data could influence trading. The key event this morning is likely to be the publication of the weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. EDT. Analysts are forecasting an increase of 26,000 over last week's unusually low reading, taking the total number of new claims to 365,000. Also due this morning is September's leading indicators report, expected to show an increase to 0.2% from -0.1% last time, and October's Philadelphia Federal Reserve manufacturing survey. Finally, the EIA weekly natural-gas storage report is due at 10:30 a.m. EDT.

Several more big names are due to report quarterly earnings today. Verizon reported early this morning, unveiling a 16% increase in quarterly earnings from $0.49 per share in the prior-year quarter to $0.56. Quarterly revenue rose from $1.37 billion to $1.59 billion, and the company said that full-year results should meet expectations.

Also due today are the latest quarterly results from Morgan Stanley, Microsoft, and Google. Analysts are expecting Google to report a 9% increase in earnings per share, but Microsoft is expected to report a 17% fall in earnings per share compared with the first quarter of last year.

Shares in eBay and American Express may fall when markets open. Both companies' shares fell in after-hours trading last night following downbeat forecasts for the remainder of the year.

European markets
European markets were fairly quiet this morning after the strong gains of recent days. Overnight news that Chinese GDP growth for the third quarter was 7.4% matched expectations, but investors were cautious ahead of the start of today's two-day EU summit in Brussels, at which leaders are due to discuss the proposed EU banking union. In the bond markets, Spain held a successful 10-year bond auction this morning, selling 1.5 billion euros at an average yield of 5.468%, down from 5.7% at the last auction of this kind. Less encouraging was the latest update on Spain's banks, which found that a record-high 10.5% of all loans are now in arrears.

At 7 a.m. EDT, the DAX was up 0.4%, the CAC was down 0.2%, the FTSE MIB was down 0.8%, and the IBEX was down 0.8%. In London, the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE) was up just 0.05% despite better-than-expected data on U.K. retail sales, which rose by 0.6% in September, beating analysts' expectations for a 0.4% increase. Retail sales fell by 0.1% in August.

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Roland Head has no shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Microsoft. The Fool has created a bear call spread position on American Express. The Fool has stockstock on Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google and eBay. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a synthetic covered call position in Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a write covered strangle position in American Express. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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