Dow May Rise on Earnings Hopes

LONDON -- Stock index futures at 7 a.m. EST indicate that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) may open 24 points higher this morning, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) may open with a nominal two-point gain.

The economic calendar is empty today, leaving the stage clear for the latest corporate earnings reports. Companies due to report results before markets open this morning include drinks giant Constellation Brands, which is expected to report earnings of $0.55 per share. Other stocks that could be actively traded include Alcoa, after the aluminum giant -- seen as a bellwether for earnings season -- reported better-than-expected sales after the bell last night. Wireless-network operator Clearwire may also be in demand after it received a takeover offer from Dish Network that could spark a bidding war with Sprint Nextel, which has already made an offer for Clearwire.

European markets
European markets drifted higher this morning following last night's positive start to U.S. earnings seasons. Closer to home, the news was less good. German industrial output rose by just 0.2% in November, much lower than the 1% that had been expected. In Greece, industrial output fell by 2.9% in November compared with November 2011, dampening hopes that were lifted by October's year-on-year rise in output. In the U.K., the trade deficit narrowed to -3.47 billion pounds in November from -3.73 billion pounds in October, but the improvement was less than forecast.

As of 7: 40 a.m. EST, the DAX is up 0.13%, the CAC 40 is down about one point, the FTSE MIB is up 1.24%, and the IBEX 35 is up 0.46%. In London, the FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE  ) is up 0.47%, led higher by a 5.3% gain for Lloyds Banking Group (LSE: LLOY  ) , which rose strongly after broker UBS raised its target price for the bank to 60 pence. Supermarket chain Sainsbury (LSE: SBRY  ) sank to the bottom of the table and was down 2.7% after issuing a strong Christmas trading update but warning that customers were likely to spend "cautiously" in the first quarter of this year as they compensated for higher festive spending.

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