Stocks are indicating a lower notably lower open on Monday, with concerns about the economic impact of a recent swine flu outbreak generating some selling pressure. The major index futures are showing steep declines, with the Dow futures currently down 150 points.
While the flu does seem to be spreading, many doctors agree that the swine flu is no more panic worthy than any other breakout of the human flu during flu season. For many, the fears surrounding the current swine flu outbreak actually bring up memories from over 30 years ago.
In 1976, fears of a swine flu outbreak caused the federal government to push for national vaccination. However, the supposed outbreak never actually came about.
What was seen were cases of a rare side effect thought to be linked to the vaccination. The unexpected development cut short the vaccination effort after 10 weeks.
The episode triggered a substantial public backlash against flu vaccination, embarrassing the federal government and costing the director of the U.S. Center for Disease Control his job.
In earnings news, Verizon (VZ) reported first quarter net income of $0.58 per share, compared to $0.57 per share in the year-ago period.
Before special items, net income attributable to Verizon was $0.63 per share, compared to $0.61 per share in same quarter last year. On average, analysts expected the company to report earnings of $0.59 per share.
Meanwhile, Whirlpool Corp. (WHR) reported first quarter earnings of $0.91 per diluted share, compared to $1.22 in the prior year quarter. The company reported net sales of $3.57 billion, a decrease of 23 percent from $4.61 billion in the year-ago period. Excluding the impact of foreign exchange translation, first quarter sales declined approximately 14 percent.
In other news, General Motors (GM) presented its updated Viability Plan, which will focus on 4 core brands in U.S. to cut costs. The company also expects to reduce its U.S. dealer count to just over 3,600 by the end of next year.
Green arrows were seen across the board at the close of Friday's trading, as investors responded well to the latest batch of corporate earnings and economic news. The major averages all closed firmly in positive territory.
Despite Friday's gains, the major averages turned in a mixed performance for the week. While the Nasdaq closed higher for the seventh straight week, up 1.3 percent, the Dow and the S&P 500 ended their winning streaks, posting weekly losses of 0.7 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.
Crude oil futures are falling $2.54 to $49.01 a barrel after falling 1.8 percent in the week ended April 24th. The weakness seen last week came after a lackluster global growth forecast dampened the outlook for demand.
Meanwhile, gold futures are trading down $0.90 at $913.20 an ounce. In the previous week, the precious metal climbed $44.70 or 5.1 percent to $914.10 an ounce.
On the currency front, the dollar showed a mixed performance last week. The dollar fell about 2 percent against the yen, while it advanced 1.5 percent against the euro. Currently, the greenback is valued at 96.701 yen and is worth $1.3122 versus the euro.
In overseas trading, stocks markets across the Asia-Pacific region closed mostly lower on Monday amid concerns about the impact of the swine flu outbreak. The Japanese market bucked the downtrend, however, with the Nikkei 255 Index edging up 0.2 percent.
The major European markets have also come under pressure, with the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index currently down 1 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index are falling 1.5 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.
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