Firm Start Expected for Dow

LONDON -- Stock index futures at 7 a.m. EST indicate that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) may open 0.22% higher this morning, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) may open 0.17% higher.

Today looks likely to be a quiet day, with no major economic data or corporate earnings due for release during trading hours. As the end of earnings season approaches, the Dow Jones has gained 6.8% so far this year, while the S&P 500 is 6.4% higher. CNN's Fear & Greed Index remains in "extreme greed" territory after closing at 83 on Friday.

Loews Corp. (NYSE: L  ) started the day by reporting a fourth-quarter loss of $0.08 per share. The company said catastrophe losses in its insurance business and lower investment income had hit earnings over the last quarter. Other companies due to report results before markets open this morning include private-equity firm American Capital, which is expected to report earnings of $0.25 per share, and Radian, which is expected to report a loss of $0.51 per share.

Other shares that could be actively traded today include Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) after co-founder Eric Schmidt revealed a plan to sell 42% of his Google shares, which would earn him $2.5 billion at Google's current $785 share price. Schmidt said the share sale would be done in stages over a period of up to one year so as not to affect the company's share price. Google shares were 0.8% lower in premarket trading this morning.

European markets
European markets were fairly quiet this morning, with little news from the eurozone except for the latest figures from France, which showed that industrial output fell by 0.1% in December -- less than the 0.2% fall forecast by analysts but a decline from the 0.5% increase seen in November.

At 7:30 a.m. EST, the DAX was unchanged, the CAC 40 was up 0.66%, the FTSE MIB was down 0.11%, and the IBEX 35 was down 0.49%. In London, the FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE  ) was 0.33% higher, with steel producer Evraz topping the leaderboard, up 3.6%, and supermarkets Wm. Morrison and Tesco up by 2% and 1.6%, respectively.

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