Dow May Open Lower on Fears Over China's Growth

LONDON -- Stock index futures at 7 a.m. EST indicate that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) may both open 0.23% lower today. The CNN Fear & Greed Index declined on Friday to close at 60, although it still indicates "greed" at this level.

There are no major economic data or company results scheduled for release today. Investors are likely to turn their attention toward developments in Europe and Asia while hoping that U.S. politicians will make some progress in resolving the budget sequester that caused $85 billion of spending cuts to take effect Friday night. Reports over the weekend suggested that the budget cuts could remain in force for several months.

China's stock market fell heavily on Monday, and the CSI300 index of leading shares closed down by 4.7% after the government announced new restrictions on home ownership, aiming to cool the country's property market. A fall in the China nonmanufacturing purchasing managers' index also caused concerns -- the index fell to 54.5 in February, down from 56.2 in January. This means expansion in China's service sector has slowed to the lowest level since last September.

In corporate news, Las Vegas Sands may be actively traded when markets open this morning after the casino operator admitted that it has probably breached the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a law prohibiting paying bribes to foreign officials.

European markets
In Europe, most markets slipped lower this morning as concerns over China's slowing growth combined with renewed fears about European economies. In Spain, the number of unemployed rose by 1.2% last month to more than 5 million, while Italy remains without a new government, Portugal needs an extension to its bailout targets, and Cyprus is on the verge of bankruptcy. All of these subjects are likely to be discussed when eurozone finance ministers meet this afternoon, but no decisions are expected today.

At 7 a.m. EST, the DAX was down 0.49%, the CAC 40 was up 0.17%, the FTSE MIB was down 0.58%, and the IBEX 35 was up 0.69%. In London, the FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE  ) was down 0.5%, with miners and financial stocks the biggest fallers. Copper miner Kazakhmys continued Friday's steep falls and was down 5.2% following a disappointing trading update and a broker downgrade at the end of last week. Rio Tinto and Lloyds Banking Group were also big fallers, with both stocks down by about 3.5% at the end of the morning session.

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