US Stock Futures Signal Slightly Lower Open Amid Cyprus Concerns

 
on March 22 2013 4:48 AM

U.S. stock index futures point to a slightly lower open on Friday as investor sentiment was weighed down by the continuing Cyprus bailout concerns.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 0.03 percent, futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were down 0.09 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were down 0.10 percent.

Market sentiment turned negative on Thursday as concerns over the Cyprus banking sector's bailout intensified after the European Central Bank, or ECB, toughened its stance by saying that it would cut its emergency liquidity assistance to Cyprus after Mar. 25 if the cash-strapped island nation did not come to terms with what it must do to satisfy the central bank. Meanwhile, rating firm Standard & Poor's lowered Cyprus' sovereign debt rating by a notch to CCC.

International lenders over the weekend had agreed to give Cyprus a bailout worth $13.1 billion to bolster its troubled banking sector and public finances. But the country's citizens were asked to make sacrifices by paying as much as 10 percent of their savings deposits as a one-time tax to raise $7.5 billion, which was rejected by the Cypriot parliament after foreign and domestic depositors became outraged by the plan and threatened a run on the nation's banks. The Cypriot parliament is set to consider a new plan to raise the funds later in the day.

“The latest proposals mentioned from the Cypriot side include some measures that will guarantee deposits up to 100,000 euros, nationalize pension funds and impose some capital control on banks. However, it remains unclear whether the parliament will pass the bills or whether the euro zone will accept the measures. Options seem to be narrowing for the country as talks with Russia also remains unproductive so far,” a note from Credit Agricole said.

U.S. stock markets ended on lower Thursday as intensified worries about Cyprus offset better-than-expected economic data. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 0.62 percent, the S&P 500 Index was down 0.83 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.97 percent.

Data released by the Department of Labor on Thursday showed that jobless claims, which measure the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time, edged up to 336,000 last week, but the four-week moving average fell to its lowest level in five years. The Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index recovered from a reading of -12.5 in February, to 2 in March, exceeding analysts' estimate of -3.

European stock markets were trading lower, with Germany's DAX30 declining 0.2 percent, France's CAC 40 falling 0.34 percent and London's FTSE 100 slipping 0.10 percent.

Asian stock markets mostly declined on Friday as renewed euro zone concerns weighed on investor sentiment. Japanese shares plunged after the Bank of Japan's new governor Haruhiko Kuroda's news conference failed to meet expectations. Japan’s Nikkei plunged 2.35 percent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng declined 0.51 percent and India’s BSE Sensex fell 0.33 percent, while the Chinese Shanghai Composite gained 0.17 percent.

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