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Monday, August 17, 2009

Stock futures point down on Wall Street today


AP Business Writer I. Augstums, Ap Business
Wall Street looked to plunge at the opening of trading Monday as investors around the world feared that consumers are too anxious to help lift the economy into recovery.
U.S. stock futures fell sharply Monday after overseas markets extended the heavy selling that began on Wall Street Friday. That pullback followed a weaker than expected reading on consumer confidence.
The Shanghai stock market fell almost 6 percent and the major indexes in Europe were all down more than 1.5 percent.
Oil prices also continued to fall sharply, reflecting the growing concerns about a weak economy that will curtail demand for energy.
Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 180, or 1.9 percent, to 9,141. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures declined 21.10, or 2.1 percent, to 984.70, while Nasdaq 100 index futures declined 30.50, or 1.9 percent, to 1,584.50.
After rallying for months on expectations of an economic recovery, investors are now worried that they have been too optimistic given consumers' continuing reluctance to spend.
Friday's drop on Wall Street was triggered by a sharp drop in the Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index, which followed a surprisingly weak July retail sales report from the Commerce Department. While other parts of the economy, including housing and manufacturing, are showing signs of progress, the country cannot have a strong recovery unless consumers are spending more freely. Their spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic growth.
Traders will get more insight into consumers' mindset as retailers report second-quarter earnings this week. Last week, the nation's largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said its most important sales figure, those from stores open at least a year, fell during the April-June period.
Among companies reporting results early Monday, Lowe's Cos. said poor weather and cautious consumer spending caused sales to fall 19 percent in the second quarter. The home improvement retailer missed analysts' forecasts.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average fell 3.1 percent as investors weren't satisfied by news that the country had emerged from recession in the second quarter. In afternoon trading, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 1.9 percent, Germany's DAX index fell 2.2 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 2.5 percent.
Oil prices hovered around $66 a barrel in pre-opening trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Meanwhile, bond prices rose as investors sought safety of Treasurys. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 3.48 percent from 3.57 percent late Friday.
The dollar rose against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.
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