LONDON -- Stock index futures at 7 a.m. EST suggest that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) may lose 0.2% when markets open this morning, while the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC ) may fall 0.3%.
Today's economic data highlights will be October's new-home sales figures, due at 10 a.m. EST, and the October edition of the Federal Reserve's Beige Book, due at 2 p.m. EST. A marginal increase in new-home sales from 389,000 to 390,000 is expected by analysts, but unless the figures show a dramatic change, investors are more likely to be focused on the fiscal cliff. Markets closed lower yesterday on reports that negotiations to reach a deal have made little progress so far.
Companies whose stock may be actively traded today include Costco Wholesale, which yesterday announced it will pay a $7 per-share special dividend worth $3 billion to shareholders. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters could also do well after beating analysts' expectations in its most recent quarterly results and rising 22% in after-hours trading last night. American Eagle Outfitters is due to release its results before markets open today, with analysts expecting third-quarter earnings of $0.37 per share.
European markets slipped lower this morning as investors focused on fiscal cliff fears and remained uncertain about some key details of the Greek debt deal -- in particular, the details and timescale of the debt buyback program. Germany's central bank president, Jens Weidmann, also warned that the Bundesbank would not hand back its profits on Greek bonds (a key part of the deal) unless the country's parliament approved it in a vote.
Elsewhere in Europe, the recapitalization program for Spain's four nationalized banks has been approved by the European Commission. The deal will cost 37 billion euros and will involve transferring 45 billion euros of bad property loans to a new bad bank. The four banks will face additional restrictions on their activities, and thousands of jobs are expected to be cut.
As of 7:30 a.m. EST, the DAX is down 0.2%, the CAC 40 is down 0.3%, the FTSE MIB is down 0.5%, and the IBEX 35 is down by 0.9%. In London, the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE ) was down 0.3%. High street retailer Marks and Spencer was among the top climbers, gaining almost 3% through the morning after announcing that it had reached a new funding plan for its pension scheme deficit, involving a reduction in previously planned cash contributions.
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett does not own shares in Marks and Spencer, but he did recently invest $1 billion in another FTSE 100 blue-chip brand, expanding his stake in the company to more than 5%. The business concerned is a famous British name with global expansion potential -- and you can discover the identity of the company and the price he paid in this special exclusive report. Best of all, the report is free, so download it today while it's still available.