Dow Jones Flat Following Caterpillar Earnings

LONDON -- Stock index futures at 7 a.m. EST indicate that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) may open almost unchanged this morning, up by just 11 points, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) may open two points higher.

Today's round of data releases starts with December's durable-goods orders at 8:30 a.m. EST. Consensus forecasts suggest that orders rose by 2.3% in December after gaining 0.8% in November. At 10 a.m EST, December's pending home-sales figures will be released, with sales expected to have risen 1% after gaining 1.7% in November.

Earnings season is likely to remain the focus of investors' attention today. Starting before the bell, Biogen Idec reported a 9% increase in revenue to $5.5 billion, along with a 14% gain in GAAP diluted earnings per share. At 7:30 a.m. EST, Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) announced fourth-quarter earnings of $1.91 per share, including a $580 million writedown owing to accounting misconduct at its Chinese acquisition Siwei. Conensus estimates had called for earnings of $1.70. And revenue of $16.08 billion narrowly beat expectations of $16.06 billion. The company issued 2013 earnings guidance of $7 to $9 per share versus estimates of $8.54.

Also on tap to report earnings is Roper Industries. In keeping with tradition, today's major tech earnings are not scheduled until after the market closes, when Yahoo! is expected to report fourth-quarter earnings of $0.27 per share, according to consensus estimates. Seagate Technology, VMWare, and BMC Software are also expected to report earnings after the closing bell.

Facebook shares may also be actively traded today; the company's stock was up 1.2% in premarket trading as anticipation builds before its Q4 earnings release on Wednesday night.

European markets
Most markets remained flat in European trading this morning, although investors were encouraged by a new forecast from HSBC suggesting that Chinese industrial profits could rise by 30% this year thanks to inward investment and an improved outlook for exports. At 7:45 a.m. EST, the DAX was down 0.13%, the CAC 40 was flat, the FTSE MIB was up 0.48%, and the IBEX 35 was down 0.18%. In London, the FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE  ) was unchanged, with gains for 28 of the larger stocks offsetting falls for the remaining 72 members of the index. Among the biggest risers was HSBC Holdings, which was up 1% to 717 pence.

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