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Stock Futures Signal Declines as China Grows Less Than Forecast

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were pointing to a lower open Monday as the global markets and commodities dropped as China grew less than anticipated in the first three months of the year.

The world's second-largest economy grew 7.7% in the first quarter compared to the same time last year, down from 7.9% in the fourth quarter and missing the average economist estimate of 8%, according to a Reuters poll.

"We have to agree: 7.7% growth is not a low growth rate ... for most nations; but China is not most nations," Dennis Gartman, an economist and trader, said in his daily Gartman letter. "China needs 9% GDP growth to absorb the tens of millions of Chinese still moving from the nation's western provinces to the East and toward the seacoast. 7.7% simply will not suffice and when the news hit the markets everything broke and broke hard."

Futures for the S&P 500 were declining 5.25 points, or 6.9 points below fair value, at 1,576.75.

March's Chinese industrial output also missed expectations, while the country's March retail sales were in line with expectations.

U.S. stocks posted their 12th weekly gain of 2013 last week compared to three weekly declines as the S&P 500 closed near its all-time high, propelled by record corporate profits and the Federal Reserve's asset-buying stimulus program.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were losing 29 points, or 42.06 points below fair value, at 14,755.

Futures for the Nasdaq were falling 7.5 points, or 11.28 points below fair value, to 2,838.75.

Global markets and commodities were tumbling on the Chinese growth concerns. The Hong Kong Hang Seng index dropped 1.43% and Nikkei 225 in Japan gave up 1.55%. The FTSE 100 in the U.K. was falling 0.84% and the DAX in Germany was off 0.71%.

May crude oil futures were shedding $1.46 to $89.83 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange and June gold futures were plummeting $80.50 to $1,420.90 an ounce.

Mining stocks were hit especially hard, with Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (FCX) tumbling 4.01% and Rio Tinto (RIO) slumping 4.24%.

The New York Federal Reserve reported Monday that activity slowed in the New York manufacturing sector in April, with the Empire State general business conditions index falling six points to 3.1 but remaining positive for a third straight month. Economists surveyed by Reuters were predicting a reading of 7.

The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index for April is expected at 10 a.m.

Citigroup (C - Get Report) was rising 1.61% to $45.50 in premarket trading Monday after the bank on Monday reported a solid first quarter for fixed income and equity trading.

Overall, first-quarter earnings are expected to grow 1.1% over the first quarter of 2012, according to Thomson Reuters.

Of the 29 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings to date for the first quarter of 2013, 62% have reported earnings above analyst expectations. This is lower than the long-term average of 63% and lower than the average over the past four quarters of 67%.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was rising 2/32, bringing the yield down to 1.72%. The dollar was falling 0.19% to $82.15 according to the U.S. dollar index.

Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO - Get Report) is close to a deal to acquire Life Technologies (LIFE), according to reports.

The price could end up being as high as $13 billion, which would make it one of this year's largest corporate takeovers, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing a source familiar with the negotiations.

Thermo Fisher is expected to pay about $75 a share for Life Technologies, which makes genetic testing equipment, the Journal said.

Life Technologies was surging 7.94% to $73.40. Thermo Fisher was gaining 4.6% to $83.25.

Sprint Nextel (S) shares were popping 15.43% to $7.18 after satellite-TV provider Dish Network (DISH) offered to acquire the U.S. wireless carrier for $25.5 billion in cash and stock, a move that could frustrate the bid for the company by Japanese carrier Softbank Corp.

Saks Inc. (SKS) was cut to "neutral" from "overweight" by analysts at JPMorgan, who wrote that higher income taxes are helping to curb spending on luxury goods.

Written by Andrea Tse in New York

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

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