Stock Futures Dip on Spain Rating Warning

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures pointed to a lower open Wednesday as eurozone debt concerns returned after a ratings agency warned that it may lower Spain's credit rating.

Meanwhile, key consumer price data showed that inflation pressures remained muted in November and manufacturing activity in the New York region heated up in December.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down by 23 points, or 14 points below fair value, at 11,398. Futures for the S&P 500 were 3 points lower, or 2 points below fair value, at 1234, and Nasdaq futures were off by 4 points, or 1 point below fair value.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Tuesday closed at its highest level since September 2008 on better-than-expected retail sales growth in November, although a dim economic outlook from the Federal Reserve caused stocks to give up some gains in the final hour of trading.

Moody's ( MCO) placed Spain's Aa1 debt rating on review for a possible downgrade on account of its high refinancing requirements in 2011 and concerns about the government's ability to resolve the country's financial troubles.

The move weakened shares across the globe. Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 2% and Japan's Nikkei shed 0.07%. The FTSE in London was down by 0.3% and the DAX in Frankfurt was off by 0.7%.

The U.S. dollar strengthened against a basket of currencies with the dollar index up by 0.2%. The euro lost ground against the dollar, falling to $1.3338 from $1.3381.

The Department of Labor said consumer prices rose 0.1% in November, which was slightly below the 0.2% uptick that economists had been anticipating. The core rate, which excludes volatile food and energy prices and is a widely accepted measure of inflation, grew 0.1%, meeting expectations. In October, consumer prices increased 0.2% and the core rate remained unchanged.

Manufacturing activity in the New York area strengthened in December as the New York Fed's Empire State manufacturing index rose to a reading of 10.57 from the prior month's level of -11.14. Economists had been projecting a reading of 3, according to Briefing.com.

The Federal Reserve will report on industrial production and capacity utilization for November at 9:15 a.m. EST. Wall Street is anticipating a 0.3% uptick in industrial production after no change in the prior month, while capacity utilization is slated to rise to 75%, from 74.8%, previously.

The National Association of Home Builders will release its December housing market index at 10 a.m. The market expects the index to inch up to a reading of 17 from 16, previously.

Shares of First Solar ( FSLR) were up 2.9% to $141 ahead of Wednesday's bell after the company exceeded expectations with 2011 earnings guidance in the range of $8.75 to $9.50 a share.

Novartis ( NVS) plans to acquire the 23% stake of eye-care company Alcon ( ACL) that it doesn't already own for $12.9 billion. Shares of Novartis were up 7.9% to $60.20 in early trading and Alcon's stock was ahead by 2.1% at $165.81.

Shares of Dynegy ( DYN) were up 2% to $5.56 in premarket trading after the company agreed to be acquired by Icahn Enterprises LP for $5.50 a share in cash, or $665 million .

Simon Property ( SPG) offered to buy U.K. mall operator Capital Shopping Centers for 426 pence a share ($6.68) in cash, or 3 billion pounds ($4.71 billion).

At 10:30 a.m., the Energy Information Administration will issue its weekly read on energy inventories. Analysts polled by Platts expect to see that crude oil supplies fell by 3 million barrels in the week ended Dec. 10.

Late Tuesday, the American Petroleum Institute said crude stockpiles lost 1.44 million barrels. The January crude oil contract was down by 81 cents to trade at $87.47 a barrel.

Elsewhere in commodities, the February gold contract, the most actively traded gold future, traded $11.90 lower at $1,392.40 an ounce.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury note strengthened 8/32, diluting the yield to 3.444%.

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--Written by Melinda Peer in New York.
Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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