Your Morning Market Weather Report

Friday, 7 Mar 2008 | 4:44 PM ET

Weather reports are useful. We here at CNBC.com have one for you: Our premarkets page ... it's a weather report for the market day. It has all the morning indicators to let you know how the day, money-wise, is likely to go.

The central element is the futures and fair value box. Those of you who are "Squawk Box" junkies probably know all about these. But if you don't ...

Most things that are traded in financial markets have a "futures" contract ... essentially a bet on where the price of that commodity or stock will be at a certain point in the future. If the price of such contracts are moving up, then traders believe the value of the underlying item is going to go up in the future. And the if the contract price is going down, well then, the underlying item is going to get cheaper (or so the market thinks).

Now even indexes like the S&P, the Nasdaq and Dow have these kind of futures contracts tied to them. Traders use these contracts to protect themselves from major market shifts. But the movements of these contracts can offer anybody a kind of weather vane for which way the market is likely to move. If S&P futures contracts are moving higher, for example, then the market generally thinks the S&P index is going to move higher -- the higher the number, the stronger the move. And vice versa.

Fair value is an added twist. The basket of stocks that underlies an index has a cost and a benefit associated with it. The cost boils down to the fees to buy and hold the stocks (versus just leaving your stock buying money in the bank). The benefit would be all the dividends you could receive from that collection of stocks. The effect of these costs and benefits generally isn't immediately reflected in a stock index. These calculations come after the fact. So the end-level of an index is often different from where it would have ended had the interest and dividend effects been added in -- the "fair value" of the index. (When the index level and its fair value are widely different, arbitrageurs tend to pile in looking to profit from the difference).

So futures give you an idea which way the market is headed. Fair value tells you where the start line really is. Our premarkets page gives you that information and does some of the math for you.

But that's not the only thing you need to gauge the market in the morning. Stock action in Asia rolls on to Europe which in turn rolls on to the Americas and then back across the Pacific again. Our premarket page lets you peek at what's going on overseas and some of the U.S. stocks seeing some significant gains or losses. (We use the Xetra exchange for that for technical and cost reasons).

Overnight commodity and currency movements are also important for gauging the market day ... a rush to gold may mean renewed inflation worries will hit stocks, for example. A drop in the value of the dollar may mean exporters could get a lift. You'll find all this information laid out with the futures ... eliminating the need to hunt and peck through the site (feel free to do that, though, if you prefer).

We've also included Treasury quotes in case readers need a reminder about where the debt market stands.

Lastly, but certainly not minimally, we've included volatility indicators. These numbers (the VIX and VXN) are based on options trades. The higher the numbers, the more the market is worrying about sudden market swings.

These are the numbers Wall Street pros look at to tell them whether or not they'll likely need an umbrella for their portfolios on any given day. We hope you'll find them handy and helpful too ... all on one page.

Questions? Comments? We want to hear from you: youropinion@cnbc.com