With G20 meetings continuing and Spanish bond rates at record highs above 7%, the European debt crisis again looks to be the central force driving the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) today. Among other decisions at the international summit, the EU countries agreed to move toward a more integrated banking system that will help stem the solvency issues plaguing members like Spain and Greece. Greek political parties have also spent the day attempting to form a coalition following Sunday's inconclusive election.
Dow futures were headed up 0.25% before the bell, while European markets also gained. Asian markets were down overnight.
Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) yesterday unveiled its latest attempt to make a splash in the tablet market with the Surface. The maker of Windows is marketing the tablet computer as a better way to create content than the iPad, and the device comes with a removable rubberized cover that also acts as a keyboard. The model will be priced similarly to the iPad and should go on sale this fall when Windows 8 comes out.
In early news this morning, Walgreen (NYSE: WAG ) announced it would purchase a 45% stake in the European drugstore chain Alliance Boots for $6.7 billion. The move sent Walgreen shares up 2.5% in early market trading.
Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL ) surprised investors after hours yesterday with an early peek at its financial results last quarter. The report had been scheduled for Thursday, but the software maker apparently couldn't wait to share the good news. Net income rose 8% ahead of analyst expectations, which helped boost shares 4.5% before markets opened. In other earnings news, FedEx (NYSE: FDX ) was down 2% after earnings came in below analyst estimates.
Only one economic report was due out today: housing starts and new building permits. New home construction was at 708,000, down 4.8% from a revised April estimate of 744,000. But building permits were a light in the darkness, rising to 780,000 -- up 7.9% from April's levels and reaching highs not seen in nearly four years.
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