Stocks in the U.S. look set for a weaker opening, influenced by touchy tech stocks, earnings, and the big decline in oil.
Dow components GE and Citigroup both reported earnings early today. GE's 12 percent increase was in line with expectations and Citigroup's lower profits were a bit better than Wall Street expected. Citigroup also raised its dividend by 10 percent. IBM, a fellow in the Dow, looks like it will be a dead weight on the industrial average this morning after a five percent drop after hours yesterday.
BLACKENED BLUE:IBMis the latest to join the club of tech companies that failed to dazzle Wall Street this earnings period. While its 11 percent profit jump topped the street's estimates, some reports say its stock was beaten up as hardware sales fell shy of analysts' expectations. The five percent drop though felt a bit overdone and certainly signals what could be developing into a more dangerous market. We've been hearing traders talk about 2007 as the year volatility returns to the stock market
Technology stocks are under selling pressure worldwide, after IBM's earnings and a growing wariness of tech. Wall Street's nervousness about tech growth turned into a 1.5 percent decline on the Nasdaq yesterday. Asian markets closed lower, and European markets are down, with technology shares the weakest group. Last week's darling is this week's disaster but Nasdaq is still up 1.2 percent on the year. Citigroup strategists overnight jumped to the defense of the beaten down today, saying buy Intel and Cisco on weakness.
SLIPPING AND SLIDING Oil: At yesterday's close, was off 17 percent since the beginning of January and its temporary dip below $50 yesterday has some traders predicting it is still looking for a bottom. New data from the International Energy Agency shows oil consumption in the 30 countries in the OECD fell for the first time in 20 years last year. The less than one percent drop is small but those 30 countries use 60 percent of the oil consumed each day, according to the Wall Street Journal. Oil is firmer going into the trading day.
DEAL POWER: GE's earnings release also included the first confirmation from the company that it is considering the sale of its plastics business. Former GE CEO Jack Welch, on the "Squawk Box" set this morning, said he hoped the company could get $10 billion plus for the unit. This follows on the heels of GE's announcement late yesterday that it was buying Abbott's laboratory testing unit and a blood analysis division for $8.13 billion. The Wall Street Journal says this is the latest step in GE Chairman Jeffrey Immelt's strategy to plow investment back into the company's market leading businesses. Immelt will appear on Power Lunch and then on CNBC.com today, starting at 12 pm ET. (GE is the parent company of CNBC)
TAX BREAKS: Late yesterday, the House voted to rescind $14 billion in tax breaks to oil drillers and reserve the money for alternative energy projects.
CHEERLESS: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke brought zero cheer to markets yesterday during his testimony before the Senate Budget Committee, though he did remind us of our worst fears - the prospects of a fiscal crisis if the government fails to solve the rising costs of retirement and medical benefits.
AROUND THE WORLD: Reuters reports that North Korea says it and US nuclear envoys reached "a certain agreement," after three days of talks in Berlin.
China meanwhile zapped a satellite in the successful test of its antisatellite system, signaling to some that it hopes to play a a big role in military space activities.
U.S. and Iraqi forces arrested one of Muqtada al-Sadr's top aides Friday in Baghdad, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrives in Basra.