Following Foreboding Trend, Futures Again Signal Firm Open

Recent action in the S&P futures suggests a potential bottom remains elusive.
Author:
Publish date:

With bargain-hunters coming into the futures market, what looked like an early decline in the stock market turned course, and a positive open now beckons. Too bad.

For four days now, stocks have headed higher on bargain-hunting in the morning but have been unable to hold their gains, as investors have used any strength to raise cash. That the bottom-fishers have again come to the market suggests that the capitulating action, the fear that portends a bottom, has yet to come. Traders remain skeptical of this market.

"I really don't know how much faith I have in the market in the short term," said Paul Rich, trader at

BT Brokerage

. "Pretty much it really comes down to interest rates, plus a really interesting lack of faith in the Internets. We've had some really disparaging talk about the

Nasdaq

for the last few days."

Even barring this morose mood, it seems like any movement up in the market today will be capped by worries about the tomorrow's

employment report

, which, if it comes in strong, will settle the outlook for the

Fed

meeting at the end of the month.

At 9 a.m. EDT, the

S&P 500

futures were up 4.4, about 2 points above fair value and indicating a firm open.

The 30-year Treasury was up 8/32 to 88 13/32, putting the yield 6.1%.

Tokyo stocks got creased, with technology stocks again taking the brunt of the blow. The

Nikkei

dropped 327.19, or 1.9%, to 17,358.19.

Softbank

, heavily invested in U.S. Internet issues, led the decline, falling 7.1%.

Until today, Hong Kong stocks had held up pretty well through this latest downdraft, supported by enthusiasm for market heavyweight

HSBC

(HSBHY)

. Couldn't fight against the tide forever. The

Hang Seng

dropped 336.68, or 2.5%, to 13,254.34.

Poor earnings reports, euro-strength worries, interest-rate jitters -- it wasn't hard to figure out why Frankfurt screens were flashing red in a selloff which left very few stocks unscathed. The

Xetra Dax

was down 88.08, or 1.7%, to 5031.29. Within the Dax, decliners were outpacing advancers by a near 6-to-1 margin.

In Paris, the

CAC

was down 49.8, or 1.2%, to 4276.40.

London's

FTSE

rebounded a bit after the

Bank of England

announced that it kept its benchmark rate on hold at 5%, but the index was still down significantly. It was lately off 85.16, or 1.4%, to 6149.8.

Thursday's Wake-Up Watchlist

By

Brian Louis

Staff Reporter

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

(Earnings estimates are from

First Call

.)

Barclays

(BCS) - Get Report

posted better-than-expected first-half results.

Ethan Allen

(ETH) - Get Report

posted fourth-quarter earnings of 54 cents a share, ahead of the 12-analyst estimate of 52 cents.

Pier 1 Imports

(PIR) - Get Report

said its chief financial officer resigned and second-quarter earnings will fall below expectations. Pier 1 said it expects to report earnings of 12 to 14 cents a share. The 15-analyst estimate called for the company to earn 18 cents. The company said Stephen Magnum, the CFO, is leaving "to pursue other interests."

Royal Dutch/Shell Group

, on an adjusted current cost of supplies basis, posted better-than-expected second-quarter results of $1.61 billion, up about 5% from $1.54 billion in the year-ago period.

Royal Dutch Petroleum

(RD)

owns 60% of Royal Dutch/Shell Group, while

Shell Transport & Trading

(SC) - Get Report

owns 40%.

UnitedHealth Group

(UNH) - Get Report

posted second-quarter earnings of 76 cents a share, ahead of the 21-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago 45 cents.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Cardinal Health

(CAH) - Get Report

is acquiring privately held

Automatic Liquid Packaging

of Woodstock, Ill., a custom manufacturer of sterile liquid pharmaceuticals and other health-care products, for $390 million in stock.

Jabil Circuit

(JBL) - Get Report

said it plans to acquire

GET Manufacturing

, a privately-held electronics manufacturing services provider which is headquartered in Hong Kong, for $250 million in stock. GET has principle manufacturing operations in China, with additional sites in Mexico and California.

Analyst actions

Warburg Dillon Read

initiated coverage of

Charles Schwab

(SCH)

with a buy rating and set a $55 price target on the stock.

Offerings and stock actions

BancBoston Robertson Stephens

priced

Cobalt's

(CBLT:Nasdaq) 4.5 million share IPO at $11 a share.

J.P. Morgan

priced

Interactive Pictures'

(IPIX:Nasdaq) 4.2 million share IPO at $18 a share.

Merrill Lynch

priced

Internet Capital's

(ICGE:Nasdaq) 14.9 million share IPO at $12 a share

Miscellany

Bear Stearns

(BSC)

is slated to reach a settlement with federal regulators and prosecutors over its role in clearing trades, with Bear Stearns paying a total of $37 million in the accords,

The Wall Street Journal

reported.

Eastman Kodak

(EK)

said that Jesse J. Greene, Jr. has been promoted to senior vice president of business strategy and information technology, a newly created position that expands the executive management team. Greene will report directly to Dan Carp, who will become the company's CEO in January, Kodak said.

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

is laying plans for low-priced, or perhaps even free, Internet access in a challenge to

America Online's

(AOL)

dial-up Net-access business, according to a report in the

Journal

.

The Heard on the Street column in the

Journal

today takes a look at prominent analyst Bill Burnham of

Credit Suisse First Boston

. The column notes that his record at First Boston has been mixed, pointing out that his 12-month price targets on

E*Trade

(EGRP)

and

Ameritrade

(AMTD) - Get Report

have been surpassed, but two of the initial public offerings he recommended after First Boston took the companies public -- online broker

TD Waterhouse Group

(TWE)

and

Pilot Network Services

(PILT)

, an Internet-security firm -- are now trading well below their IPO prices. People in the industry say that new investment banking clients have been drawn to First Boston because of the clout of Burnham, the column reports, helping improve the firm's rankings in Internet underwritings.