Bob Pisani is off; this post was written by CNBC producer Robert Hum.
After losing steam late in the session yesterday (Tuesday), stocks had pointed to a higher open this morning. (Note: US markets did open higher, led by energy and financials.)
But in a fairly rare sight, stock futures are advancing as the U.S. Dollar Index rises and commodities fall. With the weaker euro, European stocks are down about 1 percent, but off the day’s lows. Asia ended mixed, though Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 1 percent as the country’s Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama resigned.
On the watch today: traders point to 1,067.95 as a key support level for the S&P 500 today. That was the 3.5-month low the index closed at last week.
1) Shares of AIG are flat after UK’s Prudential officially ended its bid for AIG’s Asian life insurance business, AIA Group. The U.K. financial firm had bid $35.5 billion for the unit, but sought to reduce its offer in recent weeks as a result of shareholder anger that the bid was too high. However, yesterday AIG revealed it would not accept a price cut, which essentially jeopardized the pending deal.
2) JPMorgan Chase up 2% after being raised to “buy” at UBS. The upgrade comes as JPMorgan’s valuation “more than reflects the earnings-at-risk and partially overlooks potential offsets and better footing JPM has now versus mid-2008.” UBS expects that the bank won’t be impacted as much by forthcoming financial regulatory legislation as many people have feared.
3) Monsanto is up 4%, after being added to Goldman Sachs’ Conviction Buy List. While the firms seed and herbicide operations have struggled recently, the broker states that “bad news is exhausted.”
4) BP rebounds slightly, rising 3% this morning, as JPMorgan keeps its overweight rating despite the criminal and civil probes into the oil firm following the Gulf oil leak.
5) The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported a 0.9 percent rise in mortgage applications last week. However, once again, that increase was purely due to rise in refinancing applications (up 2.4 percent) as interest rates remained below 5 percent. Troublesome was a 4.1 percent decline in mortgage applications for home purchases, which fell to its lowest levels in 13 years.
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