HOUSING IN FOCUS

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — U.S. stocks were headed for a lower open Tuesday as Asian and European markets lost ground and investors await new data on the housing market.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), SP 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures were off about 0.5%. Stock futures indicate the possible direction of the markets when they open at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Investors will spend Tuesday looking for signs of strength in the housing market, while also watching for clues about the direction of the U.S. economy in comments from senior policymakers.

The government is scheduled to release a new report on housing starts and building permits on Tuesday morning.

While recent data on the job market and retail sales suggest that the economy may be healing, the housing market remains a trouble spot. Strong numbers Tuesday would help stocks sustain the gains made so far this year.

In the afternoon, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will deliver a lecture at the George Washington University School of Business. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, meanwhile, will testify before the House Financial Services Committee.

Stocks closed with modest gains Monday after a morning of choppy trading.

Economy: Housing starts for February are expected to come in at an annual rate of 705,000, according to a survey of analysts by Briefing.com. February building permits are projected at an annual rate of 695,000.

World markets: European stocks were lower in morning trading. Britain’s FTSE 100 (UKX) shed 1.1%, the DAX (DAX) in Germany and France’s CAC 40 (CAC40) both lost 1.4%.

Asian markets ended lower. The Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) dropped 1.4% and the Hang Seng (HSI) in Hong Kong lost 1.1%. Japan’s markets were closed for the vernal equinox holiday.

Losses in Asia were spurred on by a report from the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics that showed new home prices declined in 45 out of 70 major cities, while prices were static in 21 others, underscoring concerns about slower growth.

Separately, Chinese government planners hiked prices on gasoline and diesel fuel as they respond to the rising cost of crude oil.

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Companies: With housing in focus, shares of homebuilder KB Home advanced (KBH) almost 2% and shares of PulteGroup (PHM, Fortune 500) were up 3.7% before the opening bell.

Jefferies Group (JEF) is expected to post quarterly earnings of 29 cents a share on $699 million in revenue, according to a survey of analysts by Thomson Reuters.

Shares of Tiffany Co (TIF) rose 1% after the luxury jeweler reported sales of $1.2 billion — in line with forecasts — and issued an upbeat outlook.

Shares of Adobe Systems (ADBE) fell 4% in premarket trading after the software maker issued earnings and guidance in line with expectations after Monday’s closing bell.

Oracle (ORCL, Fortune 500) is slated to report earnings after the bell Tuesday. The tech firm is expected to earn 56 cents a share on $9 billion of revenue.

Michael Kors (KORS)’ stock got a boost after the fashion company hiked its outlook.

Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) shares were also down slightly in premarket trading, after the bank denied speculation that it’s planning to raise money by issuing stock in a secondary offering.

Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) shares moved between small losses and gains in premarket trading. The company announced late Monday that it had sold more than 3 million new iPads, since the new version’s March 16 launch.

Earlier in the day, Apple announced plans for a share buyback and a quarterly dividend.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar strengthened against the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen.

Oil for April delivery slipped 64 cents to $107.45 a barrel.

Oil for May delivery will become the active contract at the market close. The contract was trading at $107.90 early Tuesday.

Gold futures for April delivery fell $17.70 to $1,649.60 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury rose, pushing the yield down to 2.35% from 2.38% late Monday.  To top of page

Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/money_topstories/~3/jMYs1XVrpWU/index.htm

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