LONDON -- Stock index futures at 7 a.m. EST indicate that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) may open up by a nominal three points this morning, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) may open a fraction of a point lower.
Today's economic data highlights include December's job openings report, at 10 a.m. EST, and the federal budget for January, due at 2 p.m. EST. However, the real focus during trading hours is likely to be on corporate earnings, with several big names due to update the markets today.
Coca-Cola, Marsh & McLennan Companies, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, and Reynolds American are all due to report earnings before the markets open this morning. Avon Products reported early, unveiling fourth-quarter earnings per share of $0.37, beating analysts' expectations of $0.27 per share. Shares in Facebook may also be actively traded after the opening bell following a downgrade by brokers Stanford C. Bernstein, which left the company's shares 3% lower in premarket trading this morning.
Investors may be cautious ahead of President Obama's State of the Union address at 9 p.m. EST tonight, in which he is expected to outline new plans for spending on infrastructure, education, and renewable energy, according to reports. President Obama is also expected to discuss the fiscal cliff -- the package of spending cuts that still needs to be negotiated before the March 1 deadline.
European markets moved higher this morning, possibly helped by a statement from G7 finance ministers confirming that they "will not target exchange rates" in response to growing fears that countries will start competing to devalue their currencies in order to boost export-led growth. In the U.K., inflation remained unchanged at 2.7% for the fourth consecutive month in January, while yields rose at an auction of new Spanish and Italian government debt, reflecting the current political tensions in both countries.
At 7 a.m. EST, the DAX was up 0.15%, the CAC 40 was up 0.35%, the FTSE MIB was up 0.15%, and the IBEX 35 was up 0.96%. In London, the FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES:^FTSE) was 0.36% higher, led by Barclays, which was up 5% after it published its final results. The bank's adjusted profit rose by 26% last year, and it has confirmed it intends to axe 3,700 staff in a bid to cut costs and boost returns. Banking-sector peers Lloyds Banking and Royal Bank of Scotland also rose strongly, gaining 3.8% and 2.5%, respectively.
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