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Futures Slip as Investors Seek Fed Clarity

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were trading down Monday after the S&P 500 booked its fourth week of gains as investors sought clarity about the direction of the Federal Reserve's monetary policy.

Federal Open Market Committee hawks have dominated the conversation in recent weeks, but later this week the bank's chief advisory panel will release a report from its most recent meeting, signalling its broader intentions. P/>"We see two things to watch for: hints of concern that inflation is too low and confirmation that the Fed has the flexibility to increase as well as reduce the pace of QE," Ethan Harris, co-head of Global Economics Research, wrote in a note. "Note that the FOMC minutes also are released and they tend to be a platform for the non-voting hawks to protest against the directive."

Yahoo! (YHOO - Get Report) shares were falling 1.13% to $26.22 in pre-market trading after the company announced a deal to purchase Tumblr for $1.1 billion, substantially all of which will be payable in cash. In a press release, the company said "per the agreement and our promise not to screw it up," Tumblr will be independently operated as a separate business with David Karp remaining CEO.

Futures for the S&P 500 were off 2.25 points, or 4.32 points below fair value, to 1,660.75. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 18 points, or 30.4 points below fair value, to 15,297. Futures for the Nasdaq were down 6 points, or 10.81 points below fair value, to 3,016.75.

Major U.S. markets closed higher Friday, led by energy stocks, after a consumer confidence gauge reached a post-crisis high and an upbeat report on U.S. economic activity bolstered the outlook for the world's largest economy.

At 1 p.m. EDT Monday, Chicago Federal Reserve president Charles Evans, a FOMC voting member, will speak at the CFA Society Chicago Distinguished Speakers Series. New York Fed President Bill Dudley is expected to speak on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will testify on the outlook for the U.S. economy before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. Later that day, the FOMC will release minutes from its April 30 to May 1 meeting.

No major U.S. economic releases were expected Monday.

Warner Chilcott (WCRX) was rising 1.98% to $19.59 and Actavis (ACT) was gaining 2.25% to $128.33 as Actavis gets ready to acquire Warner Chilcott in an all-stock transaction worth roughly $8.5 billion. The deal would create the third-largest specialty pharmaceutical company in the U.S.

Campbell Soup (CPB - Get Report) was rising 2.88% to $49 after the company beat on both the top and bottom lines, exceeding fiscal third-quarter EPS estimates by six cents at 62 cents a share, and boosted its full-year outlook. CEO Denise Morrison said that while she is generally pleased with Campbell's quarterly results, she was disappointed that the company's U.S. Beverages unit faced ongoing softness in juice category and heightened competition, and that the North America Foodservice business continued to be challenged by the loss of a major restaurant customer and structural shifts in the food service sector. "We are aggressively pursuing plans to improve the performance of these businesses," she said in a statement.

Thomson Reuters reported that there have been 74 negative EPS preannouncements issued by S&P 500 corporations for the second quarter 2013, compared to 12 positive EPS preannouncements, resulting in a negative to positive ratio of 6.2 for the S&P 500 Index; if this persists, it would be the most negative of this ratio since the first quarter of 2001, according to Thomson Reuters.

The report also said that 67% of the 463 companies in the S&P 500 have reported first-quarter earnings above analysts' expectations, which is higher than the long-term average of 63% and matches the average over the past four quarters of 67%. However, revenues have been concerning. 47% of companies have reported first quarter revenue above analyst expectations, which is lower than the long-term average of 62% and lower than the average over the past four quarters of 52%.

The FTSE 100 in the UK was down 0.12%. The DAX in Germany was ahead by 0.17%. The Hong Kong Hang Seng index closed up 1.78% while the Nikkei 225 in Japan finished higher by 1.47%.

June gold futures were off $4.90 to $1,359.80 an ounce. July crude oil futures were down 23 cents to $96.06 a barrel.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was rising 7/32, diluting the yield to 1.931%. The dollar was down 0.2% to $84.08 according to the U.S. dollar index .

Written by Andrea Tse in New York

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

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