Thursday, March 22, 2012

Stocks to advance as oil prices pause

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks were poised to edge higher at Tuesday's open, tracking gains in global stock markets, as oil prices pull back following a seven-day run-up that sent crude 9% higher.
The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures were up about 0.3%. Stock futures indicate the possible direction of the markets when they open at 9:30 a.m. ET.
Investors have been keeping a close watch on the oil market, where crude futures rose to a nine-month high above $109 a barrel Friday, amid concerns about increased tensions between Iran and Western powers.
The rise in oil prices has translated into higher gas prices, with the national average rising 21 straight days.
But crude futures eased for a second straight day Tuesday, relieving worries that higher gas prices could cause the economic recovery to stall if consumers change their spending habits.

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Investors will continue to watch for developments out of Europe, amid ongoing nervousness about the region's debt crisis.
On Monday, the German Parliament approved the nation's contribution to a second bailout for Greece. Later in the day, S&P downgraded Greece's credit rating to "selective default" after the government took legal steps to impose losses on all holders of Greek government bonds.
Investors are growing optimistic ahead of the European Central Bank's second so-called long-term refinancing operation (LTRO) on Wednesday. The central bank will hold its second auction to allow banks to take three-year loans at low interest rates, bolstering their balance sheets.
In its first auction in December, banks borrowed €489 billion from the ECB. The "flood of money" sparked a rally in stock markets, noted Global Forex Trading's Kathy Lien, and she says this round of stimulus could also be a boon for stocks.
Most analysts are expecting the size of the ECB's refinancing stimulus to be even l! arger on Wednesday, with a high estimate of €1 trillion.
On Monday, U.S. stocks ended little changed, as investors weighed an upbeat housing report against worries about the debt crisis in Europe and rising gas prices.
World markets: European stocks edged higher in midday trading. Britain's FTSE 100 (UKX) ticked up 0.1%, the DAX (DAX) in Germany added 0.4% and France's CAC 40 (CAC40) rose 0.4%.
Asian markets ended with solid gains. The Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) closed up 0.2%, the Hang Seng (HSI) in Hong Kong spiked 1.7% and Japan's Nikkei (N225) increased 0.9%.
Economy: Durable goods orders fell 4% in January, following a 3.2% increase the month before. Analysts were expecting that orders slipped 1.3% during the month.
Wall Street will get a gauge on the real estate market when Case-Shiller releases its home price index at 9 a.m. ET.
The Conference Board will release its February consumer confidence report at 10 a.m. ET. Economists expect the index to rise slightly to 63.5 from 61.1 in January.

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Companies: Shares of AutoZone (AZO, Fortune 500) rose Tuesday, after the auto parts retailer's fourth-quarter earnings and sales figures rose and topped analyst expectations. Same-store sales at Autozone improved almost 6% during the last quarter of 2011. (PCLN) shares spiked after the online travel company beat earnings and revenue expectations late Monday, thanks to strong growth in international hotel bookings.
Cablevision (CVC, Fortune 500) posted earning that were a penny shy of expectations, but sales that were a bit higher than estimates. Shares of the cable provider were flat.
Dreamworks Animation (DWA) is slated to report corporate results after the bell Tuesday. Dreamworks is expected to post earnings of 32 cents per share.
Currencies and commodities: The dollar fell against the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen.

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