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Pisani: Rate-Rise Spectre Pressures Stocks

Although global economies appear to be recovering, the inevitability of higher interest rates still weighs on stocks.

Manufacturing indexes were strong in India, China, South Korea and Australia. Australia may raise rates again tomorrow, by 25 basis points to 4 percent.

The U.S. reports on its own manufacturing activity with the ISM at 10am ET.

But the cost of fighting the global recession is high, with the U.S. alone predicting a record $1.6 trillion deficit in fiscal 2010.

Elsewhere:

1) Exxon Mobil, the largest integrated oil producer in the world, reported earnings of $1.27, above the consensus of $1.19. Still, that is a 23 percent decline in profits compared to the same period last year.

The problem: refining margins have been terrible because oil prices have been higher but demand and prices for fuel have been lower. So they made a PROFIT of $5.78 billion on oil production (upstream), but refining (downstream) reported a LOSS of $189 million.

2) Humana, one of the largest Medicare insurers, reported Q4 earnings in line with expectations of $1.48. 2010 guidance of $5.15-$5.35 was a dime above prior guidance but still below consensus of $5.40 (they won an extension of a military health contract). They raised membership estimates for their full-service Medicare plans.

3) Newspaper giant Gannett also reported earnings above expectations. However, all the main divisions reported declines in revenues: Publishing, Digital, and Broadcasting.

4) may be a busy week for IPOs: Several companies have filed, including electric car company Tesla Motors, which filed for a $100 million IPO. At least four others are looking to go public, likely this week.

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