Stock futures flat, focus on profits, China rates

By @ibtimes on

U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Tuesday, with investors focused on corporate earnings and the impact an interest rate hike in China will have on global economic demand.

Investors said stocks could also be affected by how well the auction of $32 billion of U.S. three-year notes proceeds later on Tuesday. The sale is part of $72 billion in government debt being offered this week. A hike in funding costs could hurt corporate earnings.

Merger activity, which drove the Dow and S&P to 2-1/2 year highs on Monday, continued Tuesday, with Kindred Healthcare Inc's planned acquisition of RehabCare Group Inc to create a big post-acute healthcare services company.

China's central bank raised interest rates by 25 basis points, its second increase in just over a month in a new bid to tame inflation, while consumer prices in Brazil surged at their fastest pace in nearly six years in January.

The China rise in rates is significant to the market, said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist at Windham Financial Services in Charlotte, Vermont.

Earnings are still coming in and they're good, and that may be canceling out some of the negative news today.

With more than half of the S&P 500 companies' quarterly results in, 72 percent have beat expectations.

S&P 500 futures dipped 1.3 points and were slightly below 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 fell 7 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 0.5 point.

Corporate earnings could once again dictate near-term market direction, with Walt Disney Co and Sara Lee Corp set to release results.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries' shares fell 3 percent to $53.32 in trading before the bell after the world's biggest maker of generic drugs reported results that fell short of forecasts.

Exchange group NYSE Euronext reported a smaller-than-expected 21 percent fall in quarterly profit, reflecting weaker trading activity amid growing competition.

Intel Corp said it will resume shipping known configurations of a flawed chipset that work for use with its new processors. The action was in response to demands from personal computer makers that will use the chips selectively.

Following Monday's gains, the S&P 500 faces resistance around 1,325 with near-term support at 1,300 and 1,295.

Accelerating inflation in emerging markets, coupled with recent upbeat economic data, could favor equities in the United States and other developed markets.

Tokyo's stock market rose to a nine-month high, with market players indicating better-than-expected earnings from U.S. and Japanese companies have accelerated a shift of money out of inflation-dogged emerging markets and into developed markets with loose monetary policies and more subdued price pressures.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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