Futures Sink Amid Global Economic Worries

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a lower open for Wall Street Monday as investors grew increasingly concerned over the economic impact of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit JapanFriday.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei closed down more than 6 percentMonday amid fears over the cost to the country’s economy and oil tumbled on expectations economic growth will slow after the earthquake.

Oil prices, which have been dictating trading direction of stocks of late, had already inched lower last week when planned protests in Saudi Arabia failed to materialize. Developments in the Middle Eastwill remain in the spotlight this week.

Japan's strongest earthquake on record shut refineries and industrial plants in the world's third-largest oil consumer. Infrastructure damage may curb demand in the near term, while reconstruction may boost use further down the line.

Shares of Toyota , which said it would suspend production at all its car plants until at least March 16, dropped 8 percent. General Electric , which has nuclear ventures with Hitachi Ltd of Japan, fell more than 2 percent. The iShares MSCI Japan index exchange traded fund plunged nearly 9 percent.

Insurers and some large energy providers were hit in Europe, while construction and refinery shares rose in emerging markets as investors expected a boost from large-scale reconstruction efforts.

The Bank of Japan, under pressure to calm the markets, said it has supplied an additional 41 billion yen Monday to financial institutions operating in areas hit by the earthquake and Tsunami.

In corporate news, Berkshire Hathaway agreed to buy Lubrizol for $135 a share, for about $9 billion in cash, the companies said.

There are no market-moving corporate earnings reports on the agenda.

The Fed holds a one-day meeting Tuesday, and while it is not expected to take action, the meeting will refocus traders on the Fed's extraordinary easing program, set to end in June.

Producer prices and consumer inflation data are also expected Wednesday and Thursday.

FedEx and Nike both report earnings later this week.

Trading was moderately lower in Europe. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 was down about 0.6 percent

On Tap Next Week:

MONDAY: Microsoft releases new version of Internet Explorer, Chevron analyst meeting, and HP "summit."
TUESDAY: Credit card default rates, Empire state manufacturing survey, import & export prices, housing market index, and FOMC meeting announcement.
WEDNESDAY: Mortgage applications, housing starts, producer price index, current account, and oil inventories.
THURSDAY: Consumer price index, jobless claims, industrial production, leading indicators, Philadelphia Fed survey, natural gas inventories, money supply; before-the-bell earnings from FedEx and Lululemon; after-the-bell earnings from Nike.
FRIDAY: Quadruple witching; before-the-bell earnings from Allianz.

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