Dow Expected to Open Above 14,000

LONDON -- Stock index futures at 7 a.m. EST indicate that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) may open flat this morning, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) may lose a single point at the open. The Dow Jones closed at 14,035 yesterday, just 129 points from its highest-ever closing level, and further gains could be in the cards based on the CNN Fear & Greed Index, which remains in "extreme greed" territory.

Today's economic calendar starts with January's producer price index at 8:30 a.m. EST. The PPI is expected to have risen by 0.4% last month following a 0.3% fall in December. Also at 8:30 a.m. EST, January's housing-start data is expected to show that 914,000 new building permits were issued last month, down from 954,000 in December. Finally, at 2 p.m. EST, the minutes from the most recent Federal Reserve Open Markets Committee meeting will be published. Investors will examine the minutes carefully for hints as to when the current stimulus programs might be scaled back.

Companies due to report earnings before markets open this morning include MGM Resorts International, Dish Network, Toll Brothers, Clean Harbors, and Devon Energy. After the close tonight, several more keenly awaited reports are due, including the latest update from Tesla, Fluor, and HudBay Minerals.

Other stocks that could be actively traded include Dell and Herbalife, both of which reported after the bell last night. Dell reported an 11% fall in revenue and earnings of $0.40 per share, which, although disappointing, beat analysts' expectations. Herbalife also beat expectations, and both companies' shares were broadly unchanged in premarket trading this morning.

European markets
Major European markets moved cautiously this morning following yesterday's strong gains. In the U.K., the Bank of England released the minutes of its most recent monetary-policy meeting, revealing that the committee had voted 6-3 against further quantitative easing. However, analysts were surprised to learn that the Bank's outgoing governor, Sir Mervyn King, had been one of the three to vote in favor of further easing. King has previously voted against such a plan.

At 7:10 a.m. EST, the DAX was up 0.1%, the CAC 40 was down 0.16%, the FTSE MIB was down 0.34%, and the IBEX 35 was down 0.41%. In London, the FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE  ) was up 0.26%, but the biggest mover by far was RSA Insurance Group, which was down 13.9% after it slashed its final dividend and revealed a drop in profits in its full-year results. Insurance peer Aviva was down 4.1%, and mining shares also fell, led by BHP Billiton, which was down by 2.8% after reporting a 58% fall in half-year profit and confirming the appointment of its new CEO. Balancing the fallers were drinks-can manufacturer Rexam, which was up 5% on a strong set of results, and Royal Bank of Scotland, which gained 2.2% after broker Credit Suisse raised its target price on the stock to 260 pence.

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