Stocks are likely to come under pressure in early trading on Wednesday, with the major index futures currently indicating a sharply lower open for the markets. The downward momentum comes on the heels of the release of some disappointing retail sales data.
The Commerce Department recently released a report showing that retail sales fell 0.4 percent in April following a revised 1.3 percent decrease in March. Economists had expected sales to come in unchanged compared to the 1.2 percent decrease originally reported for the previous month.
While sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers edged up 0.2 percent, sales by electronics and appliance stores fell 2.8 percent and sales by gas stations fell 2.3 percent.
Excluding the modest increase in sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers, retail sales fell by a somewhat steeper 0.5 percent in April compared to a 1.2 percent decrease in March. Ex-auto sales had been expected to edge up 0.2 percent.
Additionally, shares of Intel (INTC) are likely to be in focus after the European Commission fined the semiconductor giant a record 1.06 billion euros for allegedly abusing its dominant position on the market for computer chips known as x86 central processing units.
The European Commission alleged that Intel used illegal anti-competitive practices to exclude Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), essentially its only competitor, and thus reduce consumer choice in the worldwide market for x86 chips.
Intel president and CEO, Paul Otellini said the company takes strong exception to the decision, arguing that the decision ignores the reality of a highly competitive microprocessor marketplace. Otellini added that Intel would appeal the decision.
Meanwhile, retail earnings were kicked off by a report from Macy's (M), which reported a first quarter adjusted loss of $0.16 per share. Wall Street analysts had expected a slightly wider loss of $0.20 per share. The stock is rising in pre-market trading on the news.
Other retailers set to report include Wal-Mart (WMT), J.C. Penney (JCP) and Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF), which will report their results over the next two days.
In other earnings news, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group (DPS) beat out analyst expectations with first quarter earnings of $0.37 per share compared to a forecast of $0.29 per share. The firm also raised its 2009 guidance to $1.70 to $1.78 per share.
Later this morning, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hear testimony from AIG (AIG) Chief Executive Edward Liddy on the insurer's plan for paying back billions of taxpayer dollars. The testimony is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. ET.
Stocks showed some volatility over the course of the trading day on Tuesday, with the major averages having difficulty sustaining any significant moves before ending the session mixed. The choppy trading came as traders expressed some uncertainty about the outlook for the markets.
The major averages finished the session on opposite sides of the unchanged line, with the broader Nasdaq and S&P 500 closing in the red, while the Dow closed up more than 50 points.
Crude oil futures are trading up $0.30 at $59.15 a barrel following a modest advance on Tuesday, when oil rose $0.35 to $58.85 a barrel. Meanwhile, gold futures are currently down $1 at $922.90 an ounce after ending the previous session up $10.40 to $923.90 an ounce.
On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is extending its slide against the yen and is currently trading at 96.174 yen, down from 96.4405 yen at the close of New York trading on Tuesday. Against the euro, the dollar is currently trading at $1.3606.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in another mixed performance on Wednesday. While Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed up 0.5 percent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slipped 0.6 percent.
The major European markets are all moving lower, pulling back further off their recent highs. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is falling 1.9 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index are down 1.8 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively.
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