Market Morning: Greece, Moody's Dent Stocks

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures Thursday suggested Wall Street would open lower and European shares dipped on rising uncertainty over whether Greece would receive the funds needed to avoid default next month.

Asian shares ended Thursday with declines. Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 index fell 0.2% to 9,238.10 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.4%.

In the U.S. on Wednesday, stocks closed lower on reports that Greece's creditors were delaying the country's bailout.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 97.3 points, or 0.8%, to close at 12,781, suffering its worst day since Dec. 28. The S&P 500 slipped 7.3 points, or 0.5%, at 1343. The Nasdaq fell 16 points, or 0.6%, to 2916.

The U.S. economic calendar Thursday includes weekly initial and continuing jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. EST; housing starts and building permits for January at 8:30 a.m.; the producer price index for January at 8:30 a.m.; and the Philadelphia Fed regional manufacturing activity survey for February at 10 a.m.

The credit ratings of Morgan Stanley ( MS), UBS ( UBS) and Credit Suisse ( CS) could be cut three notches by Moody's because of the risks associated with the eurozone debt crisis.

Moody's is reviewing the long-term ratings of 17 global and 114 European financial institutions. The ratings agency said the "guidance is indicative only."

General Motors ( GM) is expected by analysts Thursday to earn 41 cents a share in the fourth quarter, down from profit of 52 cents a year earlier.

Problems in Europe for automakers are being overshadowed by continuing gains in the U.S., but GM's European losses and its response to them are expected to shape the market's reception to GM's fourth-quarter report.

U.S. lawmakers said they have reached agreement on compromise legislation extending payroll tax cuts and benefits for the long-term unemployed through 2012.

Rep. David Camp, R-Mich., and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the two top negotiators, said after midnight Thursday that only technical issues and the drafting of legislative language remained.

The bill would assure a continued tax cut for 160 million workers and jobless benefits for several million others, delivering top election-year priorities for President Obama.

General Motors ( GM)

-- Written by Joseph Woelfel

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