Markets Slip Ahead of Key Data

LONDON -- Stock markets are expected to open cautiously this morning after closing almost unchanged yesterday. At 7 a.m. EDT, stock index futures were indicated an opening fall of 0.09% for both the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) and the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) .

Stock index futures are hesitant this morning ahead of a raft of key economic data that is due to be released before markets open. First up, at 8:15 a.m. EDT, is the ADP employment report for October, which is expected to show that new private-sector employment fell from 162,000 in September to 135,00 in October, according to Reuters. This will be followed at 8:30 a.m. EDT by the weekly jobless-claims report -- the last before the presidential election. Initial jobless claims are expected to have fallen slightly to 365,000 from 369,000 the previous week.

Other key data that could influence markets this morning includes Q3 productivity at 8:30 a.m. EDT, expected to have fallen to 2% from 2.5% in the previous quarter. The Market PMI for October at 9 a.m. EDT could also prove vital; investors will be hoping for an increase from the previous figure of 51.3. Due after the markets have opened, at 10 a.m. EDT, are the latest consumer confidence, ISM manufacturing, and construction spending data.

Earnings season continues, and among those due to report before markets open today are Kellogg and ExxonMobil (NYS: XOM) , which is expected to report quarterly earnings per share of $1.95, down from $2.13 in the previous quarter due to a drop in U.S. natural-gas prices. Pfizer is also expected to publish its postponed results before markets open today. Cigna, R.R. Donnelley & Sons, and Watson Pharmaceuticals all reported earnings per share above analysts' forecasts this morning. However, R.R. Donnelley's revenue fell 2% below analysts' forecasts, and the company downgraded its full-year revenue guidance below consensus forecasts, suggesting that the company's shares could fall in trading this morning.

European markets
In Europe, markets inched higher this morning, although a public holiday in many countries meant that trading was quieter than usual. At 7 a.m. EDT, the DAX was up 0.5%, the CACwas up 0.5%, the FTSE MIB was up 0.5%, and the IBEX was up 0.05%. In London, where there is not a public holiday today, the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE) was up 0.4%, helped by a string of decent quarterly figures from several big names, including Royal Dutch Shell, BT Group, Legal & General and Lloyds Banking Group.

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Roland Head owns shares in Royal Dutch Shell but has no shares in any of the other companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of ExxonMobil. 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.

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