Dow Futures Flat as Wall Street Warns Washington

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

According to stock index futures as of 7:50 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) will limp out of the gate this morning, rising by a mere 11 points at the opening bell. Global markets were mixed overnight, with European stocks trading down and Asian shares mostly higher.

Leaders from Wall Street's biggest financial institutions have been meeting with politicians in Washington, urging them to raise the debt ceiling rather than attempt to avoid default by paying the interest on the national debt over other government obligations, according to The Wall Street Journal. Many people, including some lawmakers, have suggested that prioritizing such payments could avoid the worst aspects of a debt-ceiling breach. However, that strategy would pose "severe risks to financial markets and the economy," according to the bank executives. Absent a vote by Congress, the U.S. Treasury Department could run out of the cash needed to pay its bills by around the end of this month.

With those broader trends in mind, here are a few individual stock stories to watch in today's market.

Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) is finally getting some help at its theme parks from the acquisition of Marvel Entertainment, completed in 2009. The House of Mouse plans to add an "Iron Man Experience" section to Hong Kong Disneyland by 2016, making that the first Disney park to feature a ride from the Marvel franchise. Spending at Disney's parks and resorts was up 10% last year, helped along by expansions like "Cars Land" in California. Fans and investors alike are looking forward to similar Marvel-themed investments. Disney's shares are unchanged in premarket trading.

Outside the Dow, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU  ) could get a boost today after it announced plans to speed up its cost-cutting plan by eliminating 10,000 jobs, or 14% of its workforce, by 2015. The unprofitable network equipment producer is slicing jobs in a bid to whittle its business down to focus on its core markets of networking and broadband. Shares are up 3% in premarket trading.

J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP  ) updated investors on its turnaround progress this morning. The struggling retailer saw comparable sales shrink by 4% in August, which was an improvement over the 10% drop it booked last year. Penney also reported a strong liquidity position, which was bolstered by its massive stock offering last month. Shares are up 6% in premarket trading.

Finally, Wolverine Worldwide (NYSE: WWW  ) should see active trading in the wake of its quarterly earnings report this morning. Sales were up 9% and earnings jumped by 61%, to $1.16 per share. The company also raised its profit outlook for the year, as demand for its top shoe brands is driving a boost in gross margin. Wolverine Worldwide now expects adjusted earnings per share to be between 19% and 24% higher on the year. Shares are up 2% in premarket trading.

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