LONDON -- U.S. markets reopen today after yesterday's Presidents Day holiday. Stock index futures at 7 a.m. EST indicate that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) may open 0.11% higher this morning, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) may open 0.16% higher.
The only data in the cards this morning is February's housing-market index, which is due at 10 a.m. EST and expected to read 49, up from 47 in January.
Corporate earnings may provide more interest for investors, and companies due to report earnings before markets open this morning include Allison Transmission, Watson Pharmaceuticals, Sealed Air, and Medtronic. Before 7 a.m. EST, Windstream reported a slight miss on fourth-quarter expectations with revenue of $1.54 billion and earnings per share of $0.11 versus expectations of $1.55 billion and $0.13.
Two of the day's most keenly awaited earnings announcements won't come until after the close tonight: Dell (NASDAQ:DELL.DL), and Herbalife are both due to report Q4 earnings after 4.30 p.m. EST. Dell is facing increasing opposition to its buyout deal, with several major shareholders claiming that the price is too low. Strong results today would strengthen their claims, while a weak set of results might make it look as if Dell is holding back good news until after the buyout is complete.
Nutritional-supplement maker Herbalife remains in the middle of a highly public argument between hedge fund manager William Ackman and activist investor Carl Icahn. Tonight's earnings are likely to result in some additional share price volatility tomorrow. Finally, shares in OfficeMax and Office Depot may also be actively traded today after press reports that the two companies are in the advanced stages of discussing a merger and may announce a deal this week. Shares in OfficeMax and Office Depot were up 19% and 28%, respectively, in premarket trading.
European markets moved higher this morning, helped by the German ZEW economic sentiment index hitting a 34-month high of 48.2, up from 31.5 in January. The index is based on a monthly survey of European economists who make predictions about the likely direction of different aspects of the German economy.
At 7 a.m. EST, the DAX, the CAC 40, the FTSE MIB, and the IBEX 35 were each up about 1%. In London, the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE) was up 0.48%, helped by strong gains for Asia-focused bank Standard Chartered, which rose by 2.1% after Morgan Stanley upgraded the stock to "overweight" and increased its target price. Heading down was Vodafone, which slipped 2.7% in morning trade to 162 pence after Sanford C. Bernstein downgraded the stock to "underperform," citing European market weakness.
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