Dow May Edge Lower at Open


LONDON -- Stock index futures at 7 a.m. EST indicate that the Dow Jones Industrial Average may open down by 0.1% this morning, while the S&P 500 may open 0.2% lower.

Today's economic reports kick off at 8:30 a.m. EST with December's retail sales figures. Consensus forecasts suggest a 0.2% increase last month, down slightly from a 0.3% gain in November. Also at 8:30 a.m. EST, December's Producer Price Index is expected to read -0.1%, a smaller fall than the 0.8% drop seen in November. January's Empire State Index and November's CoreLogic home price index are also due at 8:30 a.m. EST, followed at 10 a.m. EST by November's business inventories, which are expected to have risen by 0.3% after a 0.4% rise the previous month.

In corporate earnings, the day started with better-than-expected figures from Lennar, which reported a 42% rise in fourth-quarter revenue to $1.35 billion. Net income for the three months to Nov. 30 was $124.3 million, and earnings per share rose to $0.56, up from $0.16 per share for the same period in 2011 and ahead of analysts' forecasts of $0.46 per share. Other companies due to report earnings today include Commerce Bancshares, Forest Laboratories, and Interactive Brokers.

Dell stock could also be actively traded again today as speculation continues over whether founder Michael Dell is planning a deal to take his PC company private. Dell stock rose by 13% in trading yesterday and was 3.3% higher in premarket trading at 6:51 a.m. EST this morning.

European markets
New data this morning showed that the eurozone trade surplus grew in November, rising to 13.7 billion euros. Encouragingly, the growth was due to a 5% rise in exports, while imports remained flat. Much of the gain is thought to come from German and Italian exports. However, a separate set of data released this morning showed that the German economy contracted by 0.5% in the final quarter of 2012, meaning that German GDP grew by just 0.7% in 2012.

At 7:30 a.m. EST, the DAX was down 0.27%, the CAC 40 was down 0.28%, the FTSE MIB was flat, and the IBEX 35 was down 1.1%. In London, the FTSE 100 was sitting at breakeven despite respective gains of 2.2% and 4.4% for Eurasian Natural Resources and Burberry, both of which were feeling the benefit of recent broker upgrades.

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