Indexes to open flat, with volatility a concern

By @ibtimes on

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a flat open following three days of gains on Monday, though developments in Japan, Libya and the Middle East kept alive the potential for volatile trading.

Highly radioactive water leaking from a crippled nuclear complex in Japan renewed worries over the country's reactors after an earthquake and tsunami. Japan's Nikkei <.N225> closed lower, though futures began to recover.

Violence spread in Libya as rebels pushed west over the weekend to retake a series of towns from the forces of Muammar Gaddafi. In Syria, President Bashar al-Assad deployed the army in the country's main port of Latakia for the first time after nearly two weeks of protests spread across the country.

Japan's nuclear disaster and the civil unrest in the Middle East and North Africa have pressured markets in recent weeks, and while much of those losses have been recouped, the volume of trade has been limited as investors continue to watch headlines closely for trading cues.

Markets are still very conscious of what's going on in Japan and the Middle East, but people are feeling more constructive given how well the market has been able to withstand bad news, said Michael Holland, who oversees more than $4 billion as chairman of Holland & Co in New York.

U.S. consumer spending rose slightly more than forecast in February, while inflation accelerated at its fastest pace since June 2009. Futures were little changed by the data.

S&P 500 futures rose 1.6 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures added 12 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 7.5 points.

Robert W. Baird upgraded a number of telecom companies to outperform, including Dow components AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc , saying AT&T's deal to buy T-Mobile would help stabilize the hyper-competitive industry.

U.S.-listed shares of Nokia Corp rose 4 percent to $8.68 in premarket trading as Goldman Sachs upgraded the stock to buy, citing the handset maker's long-term growth potential.

Eastman Kodak Co surged 13 percent to $3.85 in premarket trading after a U.S. trade panel agreed to review the company's claim that Research in Motion Ltd and Apple Inc are infringing on Kodak's patents.

U.S. pending home sales for February, due from the National Association of Realtors at 10 a.m., are seen falling by 1 percent after a string of weaker-than-expected data for the battered housing sector.

A strong forecast from Oracle Corp lifted Wall Street to a third straight day of gains on Friday, giving the S&P its best weekly performance since early February, but volume remained light.

(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)

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