Checking Oil "Pressure" And More Sub-Prime Woes

Stocks look mixed to weaker ahead of the opening afteryesterday's Dow rise into record territory reversed course, leaving the key index flat on the day. Early focus this morning is on the European Central Bank's rate decision and then retailers' January sales reports could help drive sentiment. The Bank of England announced it left rates unchanged.

European markets are having their weakest session in several days. Big global, consumer giant Unilever's stock fell after it reported sales below expectations and a disappointing outlook for 2007. Asian markets were mixed. The dollar is rising against the yen and euro.

OIL FOILED: Oil is barely changed this morning. Oil prices moved close to, but failed to rise above $60 a barrel yesterday. "We are just seeing good overhead resistance," says Fimat's John Kilduff. "Just the same way $50 held (on the downside). To get over $60 at this point, we need some real bullish fundamentals that are just not there." Kilduff said traders will be watching natural gas inventories today and a bigger than expected drawdown is the kind of thing that could get oil moving higher. Oil dipped 2% yesterday.

OIL PRESSURE: While oil's weakness is often seen as a positive for stocks, it doesn't help the energy stocks. And a retreat by energy shares is what leaned on the gains in the Dow yesterday, after hitting 12,700 for the first time before backtracking. The Nasdaq stayed higher with technology shares giving it a lift. Traders we talk to though seem positive on the market (of course, that's not always a good sign) "In passing, just chatting up people on the floor, the sentiment seems bullish," says our Scott Wapner, who was covering the NYSE yesterday.

CHAIN STORES: Retailers report results for January and we should see the impact of those holiday gift cards. Costco reported a below forecast 2% rise in sales. Wal-Mart though said its sales were a bit better than expected. Our Margaret Brennan will report on the retailers today.

SUB PRIME: More bad news from the U.S. sub prime lending market. HSBC Holdings today warned that bad debt provisionswould be 20% higher than analysts had forecast for 2006. The company blamed the sub prime lending market.

Disney will be a feature today after reporting strong earnings yesterday.Our Julia Boorstin will discuss Disney today and share her interview with CEO Bob Iger.

In the IPO market, Fortress Investments becomes the first U.S. hedge fund and private equity group to go public today. The FT reports the demand for shares has been "insane."