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Today's Agenda in the Markets

There's hesitancy in the stock market this morning after yesterday's cautious move upwards. As of now, stocks look set to open lower. Economic data could help set direction when we see jobless claims and personal income and spending. The 10 a.m. New York time release of the ISM manufacturing data will also be important. Asian stocks were under pressure overnight, and European stocks have retreated from earlier highs.

Auto sales, reported throughout the day, should show a pretty weak picture for February for the U.S. car industry. Our Phil Lebeau will report on the numbers. By the way, read Phil's story on speculation that Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda may be looking over the Chrysler situation. He also says the buyers showing he most interest in Chrysler, as of now, are private equity.

Earnings Central

Dell and Gap report earnings today. We'll be watching both of these carefully. Our Jim Goldman will report on Michael Dell's first earnings call since returning to the helm of the computer company.

Recession

Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, whose comments earlier this week shook up some investors, is talking again. Greenspan told a group in Tokyo overnight that a recession is possible this year, but really not probable, much the same thing he said previously.

More Risky Business

The ceiling for what constitutes risky mortgage debt just got raised, as another type of home mortgage was painted as possibly problematic. UBS data shows a doubling in default rates in the last 14 months on Alt-A loans. These loans are less risky than sub-prime, but include things like option adjustable rate mortgages. Steve Liesman reported on this yesterday and the Wall Street Journal wrote about the UBS report today. Reuters says today that banking regulators are expected to issue new guidelines for sub prime lending.

Goodbye, February

It was a month where stocks lost exactly what they gained the month earlier. The Dow lost 2.8%, its first monthly drop in eight months and its worst decline since April, 2005 when it lost 3%. If you took out all the ragged moves up and down on a two month chart, you'd see the Dow starts today up just one point from where it began the year.

The Nasdaq Composite was down 47.80 this month, or 1.9%, its worst February since a 10.5% one month drop in 2002. Year to date, it's up 0.03%. The S&P 500 lost 2.2% for the month, its worst drop since May and its worst February since 2001 when it lost 9.2%.

Crude oil was up more than 6% in February, but up just 1.2% for the year. Gasoline is the one to watch, up 15% for the year and starting to pinch at the pump. Our Sharon Epperson reported from the NYMEX that traders there were unimpressed by the stock market's gyrations this week, and claim those "wimp" equity traders have no idea what volatility is all about.

Trading Glitches

The SEC is looking at whether the NYSE’s move into the electronic trading was too quick and whether systems are adequate to handle volume.