Futures Tick Lower Ahead of Slovakia Vote

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were moderately lower on Tuesday, the start of U.S. earnings season, with investors nervous that plans to expand Europe's bailout fund had hit a snag. 

On the heels of Monday's strong rally, which saw stocks rise for a fourth out of five days, the U.S. market was set to take back some gains. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 64 points, or 65 points below fair value, at 11,304. Futures for the S&P 500 were down 10 points, or 9 points below fair value, at 1181, and Nasdaq futures were down 12 points, or 10 points below fair value, at 2265.

Deep divisions within Slovakia's government are causing jitters ahead of its vote to expand the eurozone's rescue fund Tuesday. Slovakia is the last of 17 members needed to approve a July 21 agreement to change the European Financial Stability Facility. The voting session re-started at 8 a.m. ET, according to the Wall Street Journal, which reported that Slovakia may block the bailout's expansion.

"A little country has thrown a momentary clog in the wheel," says Fred Dickson, market strategist at D.A. Davidson. However, he added that "the euro is trading flat compared to where it was last night, suggesting that currency traders are betting pretty strongly that Slovakia will eventually find some way to pass the legislation."

Slovakia is not key in determining the fate of Europe as the European Union will likely carry on with the EFSF regardless of Slovakia's vote, wrote David Ader, market strategist with CRT Capital Group, in a research note. Ader added that he expects "more dire outcomes," including deeper haircuts and more bailouts of banks, before the EFSF is expanded. "The whole thing is one of fits and starts," he said.

European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet described Europe's crisis as reaching a "systemic dimension" earlier Tuesday. Also tempering investor sentiment were signs over the weekend that Europe was in serious talks to shore up its banking system, as well as added clarity on the bailout of Belgian's largest lender, Dexia.

London's FTSE was dropping 1.03% while Germany's DAX was off 0.91%. Asian stocks jumped overnight, helped by the Chinese government's move to buy stakes in China's banks. Japan's Nikkei Average finished up 1.95%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 2.43%.

On Monday, the three averages staged a broad-based rally led by a more than 3% gain on the Nasdaq. The S&P 500 is now 11% higher from its low last week when the index dipped briefly into bear market.

Tuesday marks the start of third-quarter reporting season, kicking off after the closing bell with aluminum producer Alcoa ( AA), the first Dow component to open its books. Wall Street expects earnings of the aluminum producer to suffer from the recent plunge in aluminum prices, with the analysts polled by Thomson Reuters looking for a profit of 22 cents a share. Shares of Alcoa are down more than 40% this year.

Investors and economists disagree over the effect of earnings on stock prices, with some saying that a healthy corporate sector will buoy the market and others saying that downbeat earnings will trigger fears that U.S. economic weakness is spreading. Since July, analysts have lowered their estimates for annual earnings growth of S&P 500 companies from 17% to 13%, according to Thomson Reuters.

In corporate news, car rental company Dollar Thrifty ( DTG) said it hasn't received any final acquisition offers and will continue with a stand-alone plan. Shares were tumbling 3.6% to $58.25 in premarket trading Tuesday.

American Airlines ( AMR) said adjustments to its late fall and winter schedule will result in a 3% decline to its mainline capacity in the fourth quarter. Shares were unchanged at $2.53.

Gold for December delivery was slipping $7.50 to trade at $1663.30 an ounce, reversing yesterday's rally. In other commodities, the November crude oil contract was edging down 62 cents to trade at $84.79 a barrel. 

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was last losing 16/32, pushing the yield to 2.125%. The dollar index, a measure of the dollar's value against a basket of currencies, was gaining 0.28%.

-- Written by Chao Deng in New York.

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