Several factors weighing on futures prior to the open:
1) GM posting its biggest quarterly loss ever; $39 billion amounts to $68.85 a share loss, a mind-boggling number considering the stock is $36. Down 5% pre-open. Declining to provide guidance is the key here. However, this news came out last night and is not the primary reason the market is down. The weakness began as Europe opened this morning.
2) The dollar, which hit new lows yesterday, tumbled again as a Chinese government official said China should shift more of its foreign exchange stockpiles out of the dollar. Cheng Siwei, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, also said that a rapid appreciation of the yuan (which U.S. officials want to help the balance of payments deficit) is not necessarily the right thing to do.
There is considerable confusion among traders about a) how influential this official is (one trader said it was the equivalent of a Barney Frank talking), b) whether this is an official policy change or not, and c) whether the nuances of his comments were accurately conveyed (this was a Q and A with reporters).
Regardless, this is viewed as a shot at growing protectionist sentiment in the U.S.
As Ashraf Laidi has noted, those who are holding dollar-denominated assets have now lost 11% against the euro in the past couple months. This is not trivial, and stock traders are buzzing about a dollar free fall and its implications.
3) As a result of the dollar's continuing decline, momentum traders are now actively involved in commodity stocks. Gold stocks, for example, are fairly actively traded this morning and are again at new highs.
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