Stock Futures Signal a Weak Start After Tepid China Data

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were signaling a weaker open on Wall Street Monday amid discouraging data from China, the world's second-largest economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Friday smashed through 14,400 for the first time before pulling back by the close to post its fourth-straight record closing session. The Dow and the S&P 500 booked six-day winning streaks on Friday.

Major U.S. stock averages ended higher Friday after a robust February employment report showed a decline in the unemployment rate to near pre-recession levels.

Schaeffer's Investment Research reported that momentum for the continued ascent of stocks remains apparent this week, though may advance more slowly than in previous weeks.

Still, said Schaeffer's, there are numerous bullish signs right now, including data showing that hedge funds continue to buy into the market and investors are purchasing portfolio insurance.

"In addition, this is a triple options expiration week and this week during the month of March has historically been quite good for the market," said Schaeffer's Investment Research.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were falling 6 points, or 7.07 points below fair value, at 14,307. Futures for the S&P 500 were down 2.25 points, or 1.93 points below fair value, at 1542.25. Futures for the Nasdaq were behind by 5 points, or 4.61 points below fair value, at 2792.75.

JJ Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist at TD Ameritrade, said the jobs report from Friday should give the bulls confidence and help the S&P 500 test the 1575 level.

However, he was expecting some selling pressure after the nice run in recent weeks, as investors booked profits and reassessed conditions on Monday.

Over the weekend, data from China continued to indicate a lackluster start to 2013. Reports showed that while inflation increased more than expected, both industrial production and retail sales came in slightly less than expected.

China was seeing a slower rate of credit growth as well.

"A slew of China's economic data were released over the weekend and the economic outlooks painted by the economic data were less than satisfactory," noted Sim Han Qiang, investment analyst at Phillip Futures.

"Thus far, Chinese government has been proactive in dealing with property inflation but the desired results have not been forthcoming," the analyst added.

There were no major U.S. economic releases scheduled for Monday.

Economists will be keeping a close eye on February retail sales this Wednesday to glean more data on consumption trends and how consumers have been coping with the possibility of a fiscal drag on the economy in the first of 2013 from the sequester.

Gold for April delivery was rising $1.20 to $1,578.10 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while April crude oil futures were down 23 cents to $91.72 a barrel.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was off 1/32, raising the yield to 2.051%. The dollar was up 0.05%, according to the U.S. dollar index.

The FTSE 100 in London was down 0.01% and the DAX in Germany was falling 0.29%.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index finished flat and Japan's Nikkei closed up 0.53%.

In corporate news, Dick's Sporting Goods ( DKS) shares were plunging 8.79% in premarket trading after the company predicted same-store sales to rise about 2% to 3% in 2013, significantly down from the 4.3% increase in the prior year. Dick's reported fourth-quarter earnings of $1.03 a share on revenue of $1.8 billion, falling short of the average analyst estimate of earnings of $1.06 a share on sales of $1.86 billion.

A study of Boston Scientific's ( BSX) Watchman device, aimed at preventing strokes in people at high risk of them because of an irregular heartbeat, found the device is safer than previous testing found, but may not be better than a drug that is used now for preventing strokes, heart-related deaths and blood clots in people with atrial fibrillation over the long term, The Associated Press reported. Shares were down 0.67%.

AT&T ( T) is reportedly interested in buying a 25% stake in India's Reliance Jio Infocomm, a telecommunications venture controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, for $3.5 billion, Reuters reported, citing the Times of India newspaper. Shares were down 0.44%.

JPMorgan ( JPM) is seeking regulatory approval for a roughly $7.5 billion stock buyback program, the Financial Times reported.

Gilead Sciences ( GILD) shares were rising more than 1% after the drug company said clinical trial data showed that its angina drug Ranexa reduced chest pain in diabetes patients.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

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