Dow May Open Higher as Italy Appoints Government

LONDON -- Stock index futures at 7 a.m. EDT indicate that the Dow Jones Industrial Average may open up by 0.32% this morning, while the S&P 500 may open 0.33% higher.

Markets moved higher in Europe this morning as investors were reassured by the news that Italy's new government, led by Prime Minister Enrico Letta, has been sworn in. In a bond auction this morning, the Italian government sold 3 billion euros of 10-year bonds at an average yield of just 3.9%, the lowest level since October 2010. A Reuters survey of 76 economists found that a majority now expect the European Central Bank to cut interest rates later this week, which may provide a further boost to markets.

In the U.S., personal-income and consumer-spending reports are due at 8:30 a.m. EDT. Consensus forecasts indicate that personal income may have risen by 0.4% during March after gaining 1.1% in February, while consumer spending may have risen by 0.1% last month after gaining 0.7% during the previous month. Pending home sales, due at 10 a.m. EDT, are expected to have risen by 1% during March after falling 0.4% in February.

Earnings season has been relatively weak so far, according to Thomson Reuters data showing that only 43.9% of S&P 500 companies have beaten analysts' expectations so far. Companies reporting today that may break that trend include Eaton, which this morning announced record quarterly sales and operating profits of $5.31 billion and $400 million, respectively, although earnings per share were 9% lower than in the same period of 2012 due to the dilution caused by Eaton's acquisition of Cooper Industries, which has driven sales and profit growth.

Other companies due to report before the opening bell this morning include Newmont Mining and Loews. This morning Loews reported a 34% drop in quarterly profit to $0.62 per share, down from $0.92 per share for the same period in 2012, due to losses in its oil and gas units and a decline in investment income.

Stocks that may be actively traded today include Herbalife, which has been the subject of a very public dispute between investors Bill Ackman and Carl Icahn in recent months. Herbalife reports its latest quarterly results after the close tonight, and analysts expect the nutritional-supplements maker to report earnings of $1.07 per share.

Finally, let's not forget that the Dow's daily movements can add up to serious long-term gains. Indeed, Warren Buffett recently wrote, "The Dow advanced from 66 to 11,497 in the 20th Century, a staggering 17,320% increase that materialized despite four costly wars, a Great Depression and many recessions."

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Fool contributor Roland Head has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Loews. The Motley Fool owns shares of Loews and has the following options: Long Jan 2014 $50 Calls on Herbalife. 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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