US Stock Futures Signal Early Gains; ISM, Construction Data Eyed

on April 02 2012 8:11 AM

Wall Street showed signs of opening higher on Monday, with futures for the S&P 500 up 0.6 percent, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures down 5 points, to 13,137, and Nasdaq 100 futures up 0.6 percent as markets awaited key manufacturing numbers, China issued mixed data, and European stocks struggled while banks fell. 

Asian and European shares started the second quarter with gains after surprisingly firm China manufacturing data eased worries of a hard landing, though continuing signs the world's second-biggest economy is losing steam put a cap on gains.

Data released Sunday showed China's official Purchasing Managers' Index, which covers large factories, jumped to an 11-month high of 53.1 in March, beating forecasts.

On the first trading day of the month and the new quarter, investors await Institute for Supply Management manufacturing data for March and construction spending for February, both due at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT).

Friday, the Dow gained 66.22 points, or 0.50 percent, to 13,212.04 at the close. The S&P 500 Index gained 5.19 points, or 0.37 percent, to 1,408.47, while the Nasdaq Composite dipped 3.79 points, or 0.12 percent, to 3,091.57. The uptick capped U.S. stocks' strongest quarter in more than two years. 

Monday In Asia, Hong Kong stocks fell for a fourth consecutive session, Japan shares traded higher, and South Korea saw gains stemming from a boost in the country's credit outlook by Moody's Investors Service.

Data were also released from China over the weekend, where an official manufacturing suvey showed a better-than-expected improvement in March, contrasting a survey by HSBC showing a contraction in monthly activity.

European stocks kicked off the quarter on a weaker note, surrendering much of earlier gains, as banks drifted south. Losses were heaviest for Spanish and Italian stock markets, down more than 1 percent each, while the Stoxx Europe 600 index was flat at 263.20. A PMI manufacturing survey for March showed a sharp decline in output and new orders for France.

On the corporate front, shares of Groupon Inc. (Nasdaq: GRPN) fell 12 percent in pre-market trading after the daily-deal company reduced its fiscal fourth-quarter sales and profit, though it kept its first-quarter outlook after Friday's market close.

In other markets, crude-oil for May delivery fell 45 cents, or 0.4%, to $102.57 a barrel. Gold for April delivery fell $5.20 to $1,664.10 an ounce.

The oil sector will be in the spotlight Monday, with French oil major Total (NYSE: TOT) preparing to fly experts to a North Sea oil platform to plan how to cap a well that has been spewing gas for the past week.

Argentina's government decided to take control of leading energy company YPF SA (NYSE: YPF),  majority-owned by Spain's Repsol, and is discussing whether to renationalize it or intervene in its administration, a newspaper reported Saturday.

A Brazilian prosecutor requested an injunction this week barring U.S. oil company Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) and drill-rig operator Transocean Ltd. (NYSE: RIG) from operating in Brazil as part of a record $10.9 billion environmental lawsuit over a November oil spill.

Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) has dropped payment processor Global Payments Inc. (NYSE: GPN) from its list of approved service providers after a major cyber intrusion that could expose Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover card holders to fraud. Global Payments said it believes fewer than 1.5 million credit card numbers were stolen in the cyber security breach.

In M&A, DBS Group Holdings Ltd., Southeast Asia's biggest bank, has agreed to pay $7.24 billion for Indonesia's Bank Danamon, offering a 52 percent premium for the middle-ranking lender. The takeover, Asia's fourth-largest financial services deal, would make Singapore-based DBS the fifth-biggest lender in Indonesia, one of the region's hottest markets where bank penetration is low and annual loan growth runs at 20 percent.