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Europe Again Weighs on the Dow

Worries out of Europe appear to be suggesting a flat opening for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) today. Retail sales in the eurozone fell 1% in April, or 2.5% on a year-over-year basis, while the purchasing managers index reached a three-year low, with even Germany showing a contraction. The German DAX was down nearly 1% on the day.

While U.S. corporations had mostly weathered the European storm with solid profit growth, despite a high unemployment rate and other negative economic indicators, many are now singing a different tune. Tech companies like Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) and HP (NYSE: HPQ  ) , along with such Europe-exposed industries as manufacturing, are warning that profits will sag because of the debt crisis. Ford and GM both reported declining sales in Europe in the first quarter.

Asian markets gained overnight, with the Nikkei up 1%.

In another strike against junk food, Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) plans to announce today that it will set nutritional standards for food products advertised on its TV channels and other media outlets. The new rules, for example, would prohibit current sponsor Kraft's Lunchables, as well as a host of candies, sugary cereals, and fast food. Disney will discuss details of its new health initiative at a press conference with Michelle Obama today, and the moves extend beyond advertising. The company will also cut the levels of sodium by 25% in the 12 million meals served to children at its theme parks and promote healthy eating and exercise. The decision comes in response to recommendations from federal regulators, and management said the initiative is a way of strengthening its brand as one that families can trust.

The group of G-7 finance ministers will meet today over a conference call. The emergency call has sparked optimism among some observers, who are hoping for increased stimulus to fight the slowdown over the last month.

One economic report comes out today: the Institute for Supply Management Services Index, which measures the strength of the U.S. service sector, to be released at 10 a.m. EDT. Economists are expecting a figure of 53.1, which indicates a modest expansion but is slightly below the previous month's reading of 53.5.

If the news out of Europe has got you down, check out this free report on a group of stocks with opportunities in other parts of the world. With the exploding middle class in emerging markets like India and China, a number of well-known consumer brands look poised to benefit. Find out which ones our experts are the most bullish on in the Fool's special free report: "3 American Companies Set to Dominate the World." Just click right here to get your free copy now.

Fool contributor Jeremy Bowman holds no positions in the companies in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney and Cisco Systems. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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