Stock futures signal losses; eyes on pharmas

 @ibtimes
on March 22 2010 5:24 AM

Stock index futures pointed to a lower open on Wall Street on Monday, with futures for the S&P 500 down 0.52 percent, Dow Jones futures down 0.38 percent and Nasdaq 100 futures down 0.47 percent.

Shares in the pharmaceutical, healthcare and insurance sectors will be in the spotlight after the House of Representatives gave final approval to a sweeping healthcare overhaul on Sunday, expanding insurance coverage to nearly all Americans and handing President Barack Obama a landmark victory.

The reform will extend health coverage to 32 million Americans, expand the government health plan for the poor and bar insurers from refusing to cover people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Oil fell toward $80 on Monday as a firmer dollar, nagging worries over Greece's debt and a surprise interest rate hike by India at the end of last week fueled concern over demand.

European stocks were down 0.6 percent in morning trade, with drugmakers losing ground after the House of Representatives approved the healthcare reform, while nagging concerns over Greece's fiscal health weighed on banking stocks.

European leaders sent out conflicting signals at the weekend over aid to Greece, with Germany's Angela Merkel urging Athens to solve its debt problems alone and Italy's Silvio Berlusconi strongly backing European Union support.

Among the companies due to report on Monday feature Phillips Van Heusen , Tiffany & Co and Williams-Sonoma , while on the macro front, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago releases its Chicago Fed National Activity Index for February.

The Dow industrials snapped an eight-session winning streak on Friday, as renewed worries about Greece sparked a climb in the dollar and weighed on U.S. stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> dropped 37.19 points, or 0.35 percent, to end at 10,741.98. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> lost 5.93 points, or 0.51 percent, to 1,159.90. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> shed 16.87 points, or 0.71 percent, to 2,374.41.

(Reporting by Blaise Robinson; editing by Simon Jessop)

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