Futures Get a Lift From GDP Report
U.S. stock-index futures rebounded Thursday after the second reading on second-quarter GDP showed growth was more robust than first thought.
Art Cashin, director of floor operations for UBS, offers up a little historical and statistical context for today: "The Thursday before Labor Day has a rather negative history over recent years — In the last 11 years it has been down ten times," explains Cashin. "Some think that's pre-weekend clean-up since Friday is a getaway day for lots of folks looking to jumpstart the weekend. Even if you are chained to your desk, Friday's early close of the bond market limits liquidity opportunities. We'll see if today follows suit."
Second-quarter GDP was revised to show 3.3 percent growth, up from the prior estimate of 1.9 percent. Economists had expected to see 2.7 percent growth. The third and final reading will come next month.
Jobless claims dropped more than expected, falling by 10,000 to 425,000. Economists had expected a drop of just 7,000. Continuing claims rose about 2 percent to 3.423 million.
Of course, Tropical Storm Gustav, which is readying to move back to hurricane status and heading toward the Gulf Coast, continued to hover over the market.
Crude oil rose another dollar and change, pushing it to nearly $120 a barrel.
Gulf energy companies braced for Gustav's arrival. No company had reported output cuts as they began evacuating staff from offshore oil and natural gas platforms, but Shell Oil, which has the largest offshore operations, said it may begin shutting output as early as Thursday while it works to evacuate all of its 1,300 Gulf of Mexico workers by Saturday.
The U.S. dollar slipped against the euro after comments from European Central Bank officials indicated inflation worries persisted in the euro zone.
The United States, Europe and Japan planned joint intervention to rescue the dollar when it was plunging in March when Bear Stearns collapsed, the Nikkei business newspaper reported. The paper did not say whether a certain level for the dollar was envisaged.
Shares of automakers could be under pressure after Toyota Motor cut its 2009 sales forecast by 7 percent due to pressure from high gas prices on demand for large vehicles. General Motors shares were off 1 percent in premarket trading.
In the financial sector, bond insurer MBIA has agreed to take over $184 billion of municipal bonds currently backed by FGIC, providing additional stability to bond holders and maybe helping it avoid insolvency. MBIA shares gained 11 percent premarket.
Battered mortgage-finance company Fannie Mae announced a sweeping management shake-up in an effort to come to grips with mounting credit losses and a shrinking capital base. Meanwhile, Lehman Brothers said Fannie's capital and reserves are better than the market perceives.
Fannie shares moved about 2 percent higher in premarket trading, while fellow government-sponsored enterprise Freddie Mac gained 2.5 percent.
And in earnings news, Sears Holdings' profit fell to $0.50 per share in the second quarter from $1.15 in the second quarter of 2007, the company said in a statement.
In telecom news, Alcatel-Lucent shares jumped about 4 percent premarket on a Wall Street Journal report that the company's short list for its next chief executive includes Mike Quigley, a longtime Alcatel manager who left the company last year.
Asian stocks seesawed and ended mixed, while European markets were higher, led by financials.