LONDON -- Stock index futures at 7 a.m. EDT indicate that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) may open up by a nominal eight points this morning, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) is expected to open flat after closing at a new record high of 1,569 points on Thursday for the first time since October 2007.
According to Bloomberg, recent gains in the S&P 500 mean that companies' share prices are now just 5% below analysts' average price estimates. That's closer than they have been for the last seven years and substantially below the historic average of 14%. At the same time, data published by BEA/Haver Analytics shows that corporate profits have reached their highest levels relative to GDP since 1943, prompting some analysts to suggest that the current stock market bull run has some distance to go.
However, trading may be light today, as most European markets, including the FTSE 100, remain closed for a public holiday today. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei index fell 2.1% to hit a three-week low in Monday trading after investors took profits following recent gains. The Nikkei is now 4.1% below its March 21 high of 12,650, which marked a 4.5-year peak for the index. In China, the HSBC manufacturing index rose to 51.6 in February, up from 50.4 in January. Although this is slightly below the preliminary "flash" reading of 51.7, it suggests that China's manufacturing sector is continuing to recover, a conclusion supported by China's official PMI, which rose from 50.1 to 50.9 in February.
U.S. economic reports due today include the Markit Purchasing Managers' Index for March at 9 a.m. EDT, followed at 10 a.m. EDT by the ISM manufacturing index for March, which is expected to remain unchanged from February at 54.2%. Also due at 10 a.m. EDT, construction-spending figures for February are expected to show that spending rose by 1% in February after falling 2.1% in January.
Stocks that may attract investors' attention today include Cal-Maine Foods, which reported third-quarter earnings of $1.27 per share on revenue of $360.4 million before the bell this morning, beating consensus forecasts for earnings of $1.26 per share on revenue of $356.94 million. Other companies due to report before the opening bell include MFC Industrial. Facebook stock may be actively traded this week ahead of a major announcement by the company on April 4, which is rumored to be a Facebook phone that will use a customised version of the Google Android operating system.
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