Futures Hint at Mixed Open for U.S. Stocks

Premarket futures were hinting at a mixed open for U.S. stocks Thursday, as the government weighed a program to help troubled homeowners and traders sized up a large mass of quarterly corporate earnings statements.

Futures for the S&P 500 were down 1.5 points at 901 but were 5.3 above fair value. Nasdaq futures were down 9 points at 1239 and were 1.4 short of fair value.

On Wednesday, stocks sold off steadily as many companies reported mixed third-quarter results and cautioned investors not to expect much in coming months thanks to what looks to be a tough economic environment.

To prop up troubled homeowners, the Bush administration is mulling a $40 billion program to prevent foreclosures, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Separately, the Journal reported that Goldman Sachs ( GS) is planning on cutting its work force by 10% as it copes with the credit crunch.

Following the close of Wednesday's session, another spate of earnings hit investors. Online retailer Amazon.com ( AMZN) beat estimates, but shares dropped in aftermarket trading as the company lowered its forecast for the fourth quarter.

Electronics maker Sony ( SNE) slashed its fiscal 2009 outlook in half in part because a strengthening yen would hurt currency conversions from overseas sales.

In the biotech arena, Amgen ( AMGN) announced solid earnings and lifted its forward guidance.

Ahead of the new session, investors will hear from fellow biotech firm Celgene ( CELG), and pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly ( LLY)

Among chemicals companies Dow Chemical ( DOW) reported third-quarter earnings rose as sales jumped 13%. Fertilizer concern Potash ( POT) saw earnings surge in its most recent quarter.

Looking at economic data, the Department of Labor's jobless numbers for the week ended Oct. 18 are due out Thursday.

In commodities, crude oil was adding 93 cents to $67.68. Gold was losing $19.70 to $715.50 an ounce.

Longer-dated U.S. Treasury securities were down slightly. The 10-year was off 1/32 to yield 3.6%, and the 30-year ticked down 2/32, yielding 4.06%. The dollar was strengthening vs. the euro and pound but softening against the yen.

Overseas, European exchanges such as the FTSE in London and the DAX in Frankfurt were trading lower. In Asian markets, Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed with losses.

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