Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mostly upbeat start seen for stocks

U.S. stocks appeared set for a mostly higher open Tuesday, as investors looked past economic and earnings gloom, and eyed buying opportunities following the Senate's confirmation of the new Treasury secretary.

At 7:46 a.m. ET, Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor's 500 futures were higher, though Nasdaq 100 futures slipped from their earlier gains. But if the markets on Tuesday follow the lead of the futures, then it could result in a second straight day of gains.

News on the economic front has been dismal, but stocks still managed to gain on Monday. Stocks rose even as about 71,400 job cuts were announced.

Robert Brusca, chief economist at Fact and Opinion Economics, said the approval of Tim Geithner as Treasury secretary on Monday helped to alleviate investor anxiety, despite the "really bad GDP report" that looms on Friday.

"These are the kind of tentative signs that you see," said Brusca. "The market has to stop falling and has to stabilize before it rises. I think this is a good place for people to start making bets."

The gross domestic product is expected to have declined by an annual rate of 5.4% in the fourth quarter, according to a consensus of economist expectations from Briefing.com.

Earnings: DuPont (DD, Fortune 500), a Delaware-based chemical company, reported a loss of $629 million, or 70 cents a share, for the fourth quarter. Without charges related to restructuring, the company reported a loss of 28 cents per share.

Corning (GLW, Fortune 500), a maker of fiber-optic and TV screen glass, said its fourth-quarter sales plunged 30% to $1.1 billion, and earnings plummeted 70% to 13 cents per share, excluding special items. The company said it will cut 13% of its work force, or 3,500 jobs.

Telecom operator Verizon Communications (VZ, Fortune 500) said fourth-quarter revenue rose more than 3% to $24.6 billion, and diluted earnings rose to 43 cents per share, up from 37 cents a year earlier.

Other stocks to watch include Texas Instruments (TXN, Fortune 500), which posted a smaller-than-expected drop in quarterly profit after U.S. markets closed Monday. Shares of the chip maker rose 5% in after-hours trading.

Also late Monday, Dow component American Express (AXP, Fortune 500) reported lower quarterly earnings that missed expectations. Still, shares gained 3% in after-hours trading.

The economy: The Conference Board is due to release its January consumer confidence index.

The S&P/CaseShiller home index for November is also on tap and is expected to show steep declines.

The Federal Reserve begins its two-day policy setting meeting, with an announcement expected Wednesday afternoon.

Retail: The outlook for retail sales doesn't appear to be improving. Retail industry sales are expected to decline 0.5% this year, the National Retail Federation said in its 2009 economic forecast released Tuesday.

World markets: Stocks in Japan soared, with the Nikkei climbing nearly 5%. But the positive sentiment didn't carry over to Europe, where major indexes were lower in morning trading.

Oil and money: Oil prices fell 73 cents a barrel to $45 in electronic trading. The dollar rose versus the euro and the yen, but fell versus the British pound.

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