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Futures Pare Gains on Manufacturing Drop

Stock index futures pared gains following news that a gauge that measures New York manufacturing slipped unexpectedly.

The Empire State Manufacturing Index fell to 23.51 from 34.57 the previous month, providing further evidence that economic growth continues to be slow and uneven.

At the same time, retail sales rose 1.4 percent in the month.

Futures posted earlier gains after data showed that Japan's economy grew nearly twice as much as expected in the third quarter and the dollar fell, pushing up commodities.

Japan's gross domestic product (GDP) rose 1.2% from July to September, well ahead of the median estimate of a rise of 1.7 percent.

The US dollar fell as the lack of currency agreement with China at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation triggered worries that the yuan would stay low against the greenback.

Oil gained to rise over $78 a barrel and commodity-related stocks also looked to gain.

The optimism was muted somewhat as Lowe's, the No. 2 home retailer, reported a 30 percent decline in quarterly profit to 23 cents a share, just a penny below estimates but enough to send shares down 1.5 percent in premarket trading. Larger rival Home Depot reports Tuesday.

Wall Street's major averages are coming off two straight weekly gains. Economic data and retail earnings are likely to present either the biggest barrier to further gains—or the biggest influence.

General Motors is an early positive influence on futures, after the Wall Street Journal reported that GM would begin paying back its $6.7 billion loan from the U.S. government late this year, and potentially paying the entire balance back by the middle of 2011.

Retail data is taking on more prominence as another holiday shopping season draws closer. This morning at 8:30 New York time, the government will be out with retail sales for October, with economists forecasting an increase of 0.9 percent, or 0.4 percent when autos are factored out. That would compare to September data showing an overall drop of 1.5 percent and an ex-autos increase of 0.5 percent.

Also at 8:30 am, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York will issue its monthly Empire State manufacturing index, with economists looking for a reading of +28.65. That would be a drop from last months' reading of +34.57, but nonetheless still positive.

There's plenty of Fed fodder on the calendar today, highlighted by a speech from Fed chairman Ben Bernanke at the Economic Club of New York at 12:15 pm. Bernanke will take questions from the audience following his presentation.

Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher also speaks about the economy at a community forum in Tyler, Texas at 1:15 pm, while Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn has an evening speech at 6:15 pm and Northwestern University's Kellogg business school in Evanston, IL. Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig has already been in the news this morning, telling an Abu Dhabi audience that the U.S. economy still faces "significant weaknesses".

Among stocks to watch this morning:

Citigroup may see some action on word that hedge fund operator Paulson & Co. has taken a 300 million share stake in the bank, according to an SEC filing.

NBC Universal and CNBC parent General Electric and Comcast also will be watched as today represents the opening of the annual window for Vivendi to sell its stake in NBCU—with a deal between GE and Comcast for control of NBCU said to be close.

Google has filed a revised settlement proposal for its litigation with authors and publishers over digital book rights. The original agreement was rejected by a judge following objections from the Justice Department.

Cisco has increased its offer for Norway'sTandberg by 10.7 percent, and says its new offer is a "final price". Tandberg is a maker of video conferencing equipment.

Winterizing Your Portfolio - A CNBC Special Report
Winterizing Your Portfolio - A CNBC Special Report

Bristol Myers Squibb is planning to split off its nutrition unit Mead Johnson into a separate company.

And a new study finds the Abbott Labs cholesterol treatment Niaspan more effective and safer than Merck's Zetia.

- Written by Peter Schacknow, Senior Producer, CNBC Breaking News Desk