US Stock Futures Signal Slightly Lower Open

 
on March 11 2013 4:50 AM

The U.S. stock index futures point to a slightly lower open Monday after stocks reported biggest weekly gain since January in the last week.

The futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 0.03 percent, the futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were down 0.14 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were down 0.03 percent.

The U.S. stock markets reported the biggest weekly gains since January last week, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index gaining more than 2 percent for the week as sentiment continued to be supported by upbeat economic data and speculation that Fed will not end its economic stimulus program any time soon.

Data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that 236,000 jobs were added in February, far better than the Reuters' forecast of a gain of 160,000 jobs. The unemployment rate declined to 7.7 percent in February, the lowest rate since December 2008, from 7.9 percent in the previous month. The upbeat employment data pushed the Dow Jones Industrial Average to close at its new record high of 14,397.07.

The strong jobs data along with recent better-than-expected reports on service sector, factory activity, consumer sentiment and spending and a recovery in the nation's housing market suggest that the growth of the world’s largest economy is reviving.

Market participants are likely to turn their attention to economic data due for release in the coming week for more proof of economic strength. Reports on monthly retail sales, inflation, industrial production, weekly jobless claims and business sentiment are to be released during the week. Retail sales are likely to rise by 0.6 percent in February, while consumer price index is expected to increase 0.5 percent.

European markets declined in early trading Monday after ratings agency Fitch lowered Italy’s sovereign credit by a notch to BBB+ Friday, citing the political deadlock. London's FTSE 100 declined 0.01 percent, Germany's DAX 30 index fell 0.02 percent and France's CAC 40 slipped 0.15 percent.

Asian stock markets ended mixed Monday as a mixed bag of Chinese economic data offset upbeat U.S. jobs data. The Japanese Nikkei gained 0.53 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng ended flat while and the Chinese Shanghai Composite declined 0.35 percent and South Korea’s KOSPI Composite slipped 0.13 percent.

Official data released Saturday showed that inflation in the world's second largest economy increased more-than-expected in February while industrial production and retail sales were weak than forecast.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 3.2 percent on an annual basis in February, the highest level in ten months, compared to 2.0 percent increase in January and above the analysts’ expectation of 3 percent rise, raising concerns that the government will start monetary policy tightening to cool prices.

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