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Stock Futures Slide as Traders Eye Earnings

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stock futures were pointing to a lower open on Wall Street Tuesday as investors awaited a slew of bank earnings later this week and digested a number of economic reports.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke all emphasized the necessity of raising the debt ceiling soon.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were off 36 points, or 45.32 points below fair value, at 13,397. Futures for the S&P 500 were down 5 points, or 6.08 points below fair value, at 1459. Futures for the Nasdaq were down 7 points, or 7.65 points below fair value, at 2721.

Major U.S. stock averages finished mixed Monday. Apple (AAPL) shares fell, and bank stocks declined ahead of earnings reports this week.

Ted Weisberg, president of Seaport Securities, said he thinks that the stock market is basically suggesting that the economy is doing "a little better than it might be." While the economic numbers this week are important, the focus, he stressed, remains on fourth-quarter earnings.

"The problem with the entire market and fourth-quarter earnings is that with the market trading at current levels, which for many of the popular averages are at or making new recovery highs, there leaves little room for disappointment," said Weisberg. "So when stocks get priced to perfection in a general sense, companies better get it right because if they don't, then the stocks at least in the near term are going to suffer. It doesn't mean that we're going to throw the baby out with the bath water, but what it does mean is that there is little room for error."

He said that a company right now needs to "get it right" in all three areas of the trifecta of bottom-line growth, top-line growth, and guidance for it to have, in his opinion, a positive reaction on the market. Anything less could be problematic, with major averages and the overall market trading where it is.

Stephen Guilfoyle, chief economist at sarge986.com, said that besides looking at the economic data and a number of speeches from Fed officials on Tuesday, traders are "loading up" for the Goldman Sachs (GS)and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) reports on Wednesday.

Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota and Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser will all be giving talks Tuesday morning.

The Census Bureau said Tuesday that retail sales rose 0.5% in December after increasing by an upwardly revised 0.4% in November. Economists were expecting a rise of 0.2% in December.

Excluding the auto component, retail sales increased 0.3%, after falling by a downwardly revised 0.1%. Economists were expecting an uptick of 0.2%.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that producer prices fell 0.2% in December after being down 0.8% in November. The core PPI, which excludes food and energy, ticked up 0.1% in December, the same as November. The average estimate was for a 0.1% decline in the headline number and a rise of 0.1% for the core read.

The general business conditions index from the New York Federal Reserve's Empire State Manufacturing Survey was little changed at negative 7.8 for January, compared with December's negative 8.10. A flat read was expected.

At 10 a.m. EST, the Census Bureau is forecast to say that total business inventories increased 0.3% in November after rising 0.4% in October.

Overseas markets were mostly lower ahead of the earnings deluge. The FTSE 100 in London was down 0.13%, while the DAX in Germany was down 1.11%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed down 0.14%.

The Nikkei in Japan finished up 0.72% after the Japanese market resumed trading after a public holiday.

Gold for February delivery was surging $10.50 to $1,679.90 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while February crude oil futures were down 52 cents at $93.62 a barrel.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was up 8/32, diluting the yield to 1.823%. The dollar was up 0.19%, according to the U.S. dollar index.

Dell (DELL), the No. 3 PC maker but once the world's largest, is in buyout talks with private-equity firms , according to Bloomberg, which cited two people with knowledge of the matter.

Shares were gaining 4%.

Homebuilder Lennar (LEN) posted fourth-quarter earnings of 56 cents a share on revenue of $1.35 billion, exceeding the average analyst estimate of 44 cents a share on revenue of $1.31 billion as the housing industry continues to recover.

Shares were rising 0.76%.

Facebook (FB) is holding a major press event at its headquarters Tuesday and there is plenty of speculation about what the social networker will announce.

Shares were up 0.85%.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM) was ordered to take steps to correct poor risk management in connection with the multi-billion dollar trading loss it suffered last year.

Shares were down 0.83%.

Lululemon Athletica (LULU) raised its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings guidance but said revenue growth would slow.

Shares were tumbling 7.5%.

RadioShack (RSH) said Monday that it was ending an agreement with Target (TGT) to run mobile phone centers in its stores.

RadioShack said it has been renegotiating the terms of the deal with Target since October to make it profitable for both companies, but an agreement couldn't be reached and it will end the contract in April.

RadioShack shares were tacking on more than 4%.

Forest Laboratories (FRX) shares were sliding more than 5% after the drug company reported a wider-than-expected quarterly loss and worse-than-expected revenue as it feels the pain of the Lexapro patent expiration.

Express (EXPR) shares were soaring by more than 15.5% after the specialty apparel and accessory retailer hiked its fourth-quarter profit outlook amid better-than-expected holiday sales.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.



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

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