Dow May Gain on Economic Reports

LONDON -- Stock index futures at 7 a.m. EDT indicate that the Dow Jones Industrial Average may open a nominal five points higher this morning, while the S&P 500 may open up by about one point.

European markets slipped lower this morning ahead of today's U.S. economic reports. At 7:15 a.m. EDT the FTSE 100 was down 0.44%, dragged lower by a broad sell-off of mining stocks and a 1.9% fall for telecom firm Vodafone after Verizon denied yesterday's rumor that it is putting together a bid for the firm in conjunction with AT&T. In the eurozone, inflation fell from 1.8% to 1.7%, while the International Monetary Fund suggested that additional taxation measures may be necessary for Cyprus to meet the terms of its 10 billion euro bailout. Investors may remain cautious ahead of tomorrow's meeting of the European Central Bank and Bank of England policy committees, at which potential changes to current monetary-easing programs may be discussed.

The ADP private-sector payroll data for March will be released at 8:15 a.m. EDT. The measure is seen by some as a lead indicator ahead of this Friday's key nonfarm payrolls report, and consensus forecasts suggest that 192,000 new jobs may have been created in the private sector in March, down slightly from 198,000 in February. Today's other main data item is the ISM nonmanufacturing index for March, due at 10 a.m. EDT. Analysts' forecasts suggest that the nonmanufacturing index may drop slightly to 55.8, down from 56 in March. However, the ISM manufacturing index came in below expectations on Monday, so investors may be cautious ahead of this report.

Two major earnings reports are due before markets open today, with both ConAgra Foods and agricultural giant Monsanto set to update the markets. ConAgra is expected to report third-quarter earnings of $0.56 per share, while Monsanto is expected to post second-quarter earnings of $2.56 per share, according to analysts' consensus forecasts. Other companies due to report before the opening bell include Acuity Brands, Conns, and Schnitzer Steel Industries.

Tesla may also continue to be actively traded ahead of the "big announcement" promised today by founder Elon Musk. Last night, the electric-car maker said it would be partnering with Wells Fargo to create a financing package aimed at improving the affordability of its electric-car models. Meanwhile, online-gaming company Zynga could be one of the day's biggest climbers after it said last night that it would introduce real-money online gambling in the U.K. Zynga shares were 12% higher in premarket trading.

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Roland Headowns shares in Vodafone but does not own shares in any of the other companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool recommends Tesla Motors, Vodafone, and Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Tesla Motors and Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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