LONDON -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) closed at 14,127 yesterday, just 37 points short of its highest-ever close of 14,164, which was set in 2007. Stock index futures at 7 a.m. EST indicate that the Dow may open 0.21% higher this morning, leaving it within touching distance of a new closing record. The S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) is also expected to open up by 0.21% today, although it remains well below its all-time high of 1,576.
Today's main economic report will be February's ISM nonmanufacturing index at 10 a.m. EST. The index is expected to remain unchanged at 55.2, suggesting that the U.S. service sector is continuing to recover strongly. Other data due for release this morning includes the ICSC-Goldman Sachs same-store sales index at 7:45 a.m. and the Johnson Redbook retail-sales index, due at 8.55am.
In corporate news, Smith & Wesson and VeriFone are both expected to report earnings after the markets close tonight, while companies due to report before markets open include Checkpoint Systems and H&E Equipment Services. Of more interest to many investors will be Apple, which is likely to be actively traded this morning after the tech giant's shares closed at a 52-week low of $420.05 on Monday. Apple shares were flat in premarket trading, but shares in J. C. Penney fell a further 2% in early trading following news that a major shareholder had sold 10 million shares in the store at a price of $16.40, below yesterday's closing price of $16.74.
The main European markets moved firmly higher this morning ahead of this week's round of central bank monetary-policy committee meetings. Investors are betting that the Bank of England and the European Central Bank will show support for further monetary easing -- reducing the risk of a market dip -- following the latest eurozone data, which shows that the region is still firmly in recession.
The eurozone composite PMI, which indicates business activity across the 17-country single-currency zone, fell to 47.9 in February, down from 48.6 in January. Readings below 50 indicate contraction, although the result was ahead of forecasts.
At 7:10 a.m. EST, the DAX was up 1.65%, the CAC 40 was up 1.29%, the FTSE MIB was up 1.76%, and the IBEX 35 was up 1.28%. In London, the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE) was up 0.84%, led by public-sector outsourcing specialist Serco Group, which climbed 8.4% after announcing that its earnings per share rose by 40% during 2012, enabling the company to provide a 20% dividend increase for shareholders. Oil services firm John Wood Group was also a big riser, gaining 7.2% after its 2012 results were well received by investors.
If you're looking for shares that can outperform the wider market, you need to look beyond the news headlines. This free Motley Fool report, "The Top Growth Share For 2013," highlights a share that gained 38% in 2012, during which time the wider market rose just 6%. The company is a household name and its earnings per share have risen by 44% since 2009 -- so click here now to download your free copy of this report while it is still available.