Wall Street set for lower open after GDP data

on January 27 2012 9:21 AM

U.S. stocks were headed for a lower open on Friday after data showed the U.S. economy grew less than expected in the fourth quarter, while weak earnings from Ford and Procter & Gamble and concerns over Europe's debt crisis could also weigh on the market.

U.S. gross domestic product expanded at its fastest pace in 1-1/2 years in the fourth quarter of 2011, the Commerce Department said, but missed forecasts. A strong rebuilding of inventories and weak spending on capital goods hinted at slower growth this year.

This is a satisfactory number, not a strong number, said Mike Shea, a managing partner and trader at direct access partners in New York. I don't think this is a significant enough number on either end of the spectrum to driving trading today, with earnings coming out.

Ford Motor Co shares fell 5 percent to $12.15 after the carmaker reported a lower-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on higher commodity costs and losses in Europe and Asia.

Procter & Gamble Co shares fell 0.9 percent to $64.35 after the consumer products maker said quarterly profit slid 49 percent after a big charge.

Euro zone finance officials voiced optimism a deal to avert a disorderly Greek default was imminent and key building blocks to resolve Europe's sovereign debt crisis were gradually fitting into place. Renewed concern about the crisis has troubled markets this week.

S&P 500 futures fell 6.9 points but were below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures were down 60 points, and Nasdaq futures fell 8.5 points.

A rally from late last year that has pushed the S&P 500 up 23 percent from lows in October has left the index facing tough resistance at around the 1,330 level, which marks a four-year downtrend line from its all-time highs in 2007.

Oliver Pursche, president at Gary Goldberg Financial Services in Suffern, New York, cautioned against reading too much into recent market strength.

We are still definitely in a volatile environment, an environment where there are plenty of global issues that can derail the global economy, he said.

Chevron Corp reported lower quarterly earnings on Friday as rising spending on oil and gas projects and losses at its refinery business offset gains from higher crude oil prices. The shares fell 1.8 percent to $104.77 premarket.

Juniper Networks Inc and Riverbed Technologies Inc offered gloomy first-quarter outlooks late Thursday that were below expectations. Juniper was down 9 percent to $20.36 premarket.

According to Thomson Reuters data, 59 percent of 152 S&P 500 companies reporting earnings as of Thursday morning beat analysts' estimates. In recent quarters, the beat rate has been 70 percent at this stage of the earnings season.

Eastman Chemical Co is buying specialty chemical maker Solutia Inc for about $3.38 billion in cash and stock to extend its reach in emerging markets, particularly the Asia-Pacific region. Solutia shares rose 42 percent to $27.70.

(additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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