LONDON -- The S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC ) and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) are expected to open lower this morning as traders bank recent gains and caution returns to the markets.
Today's publication of the latest Federal Open Market Committee minutes is unlikely to resolve uncertainty over the likelihood of a third round of quantitative easing, according to analysts. While hopes for QE3, along with its European and Chinese equivalents, have driven much of the recent stock market rally, they have never been substantiated by policymakers. Recent U.S. economic data has suggested that things may not be bad enough to justify another cash injection yet, and July's existing-home sales data, due at 10 a.m. EDT, may reinforce this perception; it is expected to show a modest rise in sales from 4.37 million in June to 4.5 million in July.
Overnight news that Japan's exports fell sharply over the last quarter may also dampen traders' enthusiasm. Exports fell by 8.1% on a yearly basis -- considerably worse than the forecast 2.9% fall. Exports to China, Japan's biggest trading partner, fell by 11%, while exports to Europe fell by 25%, providing further proof that the eurozone crisis is affecting the global economy.
In company news, Dell downgraded its full-year earnings guidance to $1.70 per share last night, disappointing analysts, whose consensus forecast was $1.90 per share. Dell was down 5% in after-hours trading and may fall when markets open this morning. Corporate results due before markets open this morning include Toll Brothers and American Eagle Outfitters, while Hewlett-Packard is expected to report after the bell tonight.
In Europe this morning, markets slipped as sentiment turned negative once more and traders took profits. At 7 a.m. EDT, the main European markets were all lower: The DAX and CAC were both down 0.9%, the IBEX was down 1.5%, and the FTSE MIB was down 0.4%. In London, the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE ) was one of the biggest losers, down by 1.1% as mining shares fell and a number of big stocks went ex-dividend. The morning's biggest faller was DIY store owner Kingfisher, which fell by 3.5% following a downgrade by Deutsche Bank.
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